The `Say No Campaign’, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), has urged lawyers not to be lukewarm in the fight against corruption.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, one of the Conveners, made the call at the Abuja Discussion Series of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), with “Citizens Role in the Anti-corruption Fight: the Role of Lawyers” as theme.
He described corruption as “cankerworm capable of consuming generations without a trace’’.
“Decent and self-respecting men and women must help the country to retrace its step to that time in our evolution when corruption was an obvious bad, now that we can still view our footprints.
“You can’t afford to be quiet; deploy your skills in the service of public good and not evil, don’t engage in corruption.
“If you do, the puerile nature of laws against corruption will be defeated ab initio
“My sense is that many lawyers have diluted the innocent until proven guilty to mean `you are innocent if you have the right amount of cash’.
“This has immeasurably contributed to citizens’ loss of trust in the government and justice system,’’ he said.
Nwagwu said that there was need for lawyers to introspect so that Nigerians would not be bothered that the face of the lawyer out there was that of a crime enabler and liar.
He urged lawyers to build strong networks in sectors and take interest in economic justice, initiate budget groups, tax justice networks, consumer protection groups, social protection network and so on.
This, he said, would help them to engage in the development process.
The rights activist added that lawyers should not tip-toe out of those places “but stamp their feet on the ground and raise their voices loud in support of public good’’.
He said that it was time to mainstream the citizens input in the anti-corruption initiatives and processes, adding that their opinions should not only be listened to but be respected and acted upon.
“To demand accountability and transparency, managers don’t deliver without demand; trust is not enough, and we must learn to name and shame and stop celebrating blue or white collar thieves.
“We must, out of necessity, demand updates from anti-corruption agencies, and watch and give proceedings of anti-corruption cases in our courts.
“We must learn to speak coherently and reduce our romance with politicians, so we can be heard and respected.’’
Nwagwu said that the fight against corruption should be multi-faceted and required everybody’s energy and synergy.
He urged lawyers to take the responsibility of making life liveable for the ordinary Nigerian.
In his contribution, Chairman of NBA, Abuja Branch, Mr Ezenwa Anumnu, said that the event was “anti-corruption master class’’ of the association aimed at underscoring the importance of citizens participation in the fight.
Anumnu said that lawyers had seen a lot of loopholes in the anti-corruption fight and decided to see if they could get the citizens to participate, and with the lawyers leading, those loopholes would be filled.