The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, has stated that the provisions in the Commission’s rules and relevant laws against money laundering and terrorism financing were not targeted against lawyers, but meant to reproduce international standards required in such transactions. These provisions require that lawyers report suspicious financial transactions by their clients to relevant regulatory agencies.
NEWSWIRE Law and Events Magazine correspondent at the Conference venue reports that Prof. Owasanoye gave this charge on Monday at the panel sesion during the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference (AGC) in Abuja while speaking on the topic: ‘Ethics Of Professional Conduct For Lawyers’.
Lawyers have long expressed concern that the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) in the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) and the NBA’s Rules and Guidelines on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing were an impediment to lawyer-client privilege.
But allaying their concerns, Owasanoye urged them to view the matter from a more enlightened perspective. “Society and basic morality,” the ICPC boss said, “expect you to care about the source of money with which you are paid your legal fees.”
Corroborating the ICPC Chairman’s assertion in his own submission, a former Director at the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, said the provision was part of a set of international protocols that Nigeria had subscribed to, and advised lawyers to verify the ownership of companies they represent (from the board to the directors, their lines of businesses and all necessary due diligence).
On his part, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Roland Otaru, said the essence of the rules was to ensure transparency in transactions in this era of tech-aided malfeasance in the area of high finance and sophisticated criminality, both within and across borders.
In his summation, the moderator of the session, Yusuf Ali, SAN said it was high time lawyers self-regulate rather than wait for law enforcement agencies like the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and others to do it for them.
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