The acting Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, says some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been frustrating the anti-corruption war by knowingly supplying the technical know-how and helping in the dispersal of the proceeds of crime.
Without mentioning any specific names, Magu said a particular senior advocate received N1.7bn in legal fees from a corrupt politician without a qualm.
He said the same senior advocate received N300m from a governor in the South-South as legal fees for an election petition case and failed to pay tax but quickly took advantage of the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme when he realised he was under probe.
The EFCC boss said this in a piece titled, ‘Need for Ethical Reforms as NBA Conference Begins.’
The piece was written to coincide with the annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, which begins in Abuja on Monday (today).
Magu said, “It is personally disheartening to see lawyers who invest their talents and expertise in advancing the cause of corrupt politicians and public officials. It is amazing that a senior lawyer can accept professional fees of N1.7bn from a politician without scruples!
“The same lawyer with a turnover of N3,765,414,995.24 only paid valued added tax of N7, 051,928.24. The N300m cash payment which the senior lawyer received from a South-South state government in an election petition matter in 2016 was never captured in his tax submissions to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
“Yet when he got wind of EFCC investigation, he was quick to take advantage of the VAIDS window as cover to shield himself from the commission’s dragnet.”
The EFCC boss said another senior advocate evaded taxes running into billions of naira but paid only a fraction of the amount.
“Another senior lawyer who is quick to advertise himself as the nemesis of the EFCC, has a turnover of over N5.1bn with an assessed total tax liability of over a billion naira between 2010 and 2017. Sadly, he merely declared a meagre N8m as gross earnings for 2014 and 2015, and N10m for 2016,” Magu said.
The EFCC boss said there was a need for lawyers to demand to know the sources of income of their clients before receiving any money.
He appealed to lawyers to put the interest of Nigeria ahead of any other monetary consideration.
Magu added, “While we are mindful of the fact that there may be more than one side to a situation which equally deserves of robust presentation and defence, we believe that no matter the positions we take on any issue, Nigeria should come first.”