Lawyers Aiding Activities Of Land-Grabbers, Encouraging Illegal Arrests, Detention By Police — Akinlade
The convener of Duty Solicitors Network and the National Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Law Society, Mr. Bayo Akinlade, has called on bar leaders and senior lawyers to address what he termed indiscipline within the legal profession.
In the piece where he addressed the deceptive practice by lawyers who mostly mislead their clients, Akinlade urged that drastic steps must be taken in ensuring that the menace is ended.
Akinlade writes, “Why do some lawyers write petitions to the police on behalf of their clients on purely civil matters?
“These lawyers deceive law enforcement by including criminal elements into petitions submitted to the police regarding disputes to land, business and contract arrangements, etc.
“The effect of this is that people are arrested and detained illegally for offences they never committed.
These lawyers collect large amounts from their clients, bribe the police to approve the petitions, and make arrests. This horrible practice by lawyers mostly occurs in land matters. My PDSS interventions over the years have revealed this menace, especially in Ikorodu where most of the suspects are accused of stealing, threat to life, willful damage to property, etc.
“Some Lawyers are behind the land grabbers menace in Nigeria which has led to many deaths and emotional trauma for unsuspecting victims. Some lawyers have perfected the art of writing frivolous petitions. They include criminal elements in purely civil matters and get the police to act on them.
“The police will, however, only act on these petitions if the writer of the petition pays the police to act, make the arrest, and subsequently bring a charge against their unsuspecting victims. Our victims in this case are those who claim to have bought the land or a portion of it and artisans employed by those who claim to own the land to work on the land.
“Land grabbers are organised; they have the backing of the police because they pay a premium for police protection of their interest in vast acres of land. They not only supply their lawyers and the police with money, but they also pay in kind by giving them land and cars.
“Unfortunately, the influence of land grabbers extends to some civil servants working in the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of Justice, and sadly the Judiciary.”
The Impact On Society
“Due to the activities of land grabbers and their lawyers, many people have ended up in correctional facilities, overpopulating the prisons and clogging the wheel of justice in most of our magistrate courts.
“Illegal arrest and detention is a major problem that traumatizes the victim. The rich land grabber uses his wealth to hire a lawyer who writes a petition and facilitates the police to go on a property and arrest anyone they find thereon. The police then negotiate bail with all those they have apprehended and those not cooperating find themselves charged with felonies, taken to court, arraigned, and here is the sweet part; the judiciary puts the icing on the cake to send them to prison pending the perfection of their bail.
“This brings me to the ROLE THE JUDICIARY PLAYS in this terrible practice by lawyers on behalf of their land-grabber clients.
“The judiciary is supposed to be the *last hope of the common man* but many of our magistrates do not see it that way. When a charge is brought before a magistrate and a set of people are charged for attempting to breach the peace, bringing thugs onto the land, etc, should the magistrate not critically consider the social and economic standing of both the accused and the complainant? If an infraction happened on the land; should the magistrate not give the benefit to the weaker and economically more vulnerable party, which is most likely the accused himself ? Should our magistrates be so quick to just state bail conditions without first considering the facts noting that bail is usually not perfected within 24 hours and the already overcrowded correctional facilities? Should the judiciary allow itself to be a tool in the hands of land grabbers in this way?”
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law provides some useful provisions in this regard.
1. The ACJA condemns arrests and investigations that are facilitated by a complainant.
2. The ACJA provides adequately for genuine complainants to come by way of binding over application where there are indeed any threats of violence.
He said lawyers should be abreast of these provisions but when it comes to disputes over land the High Court Civil procedure rules more than compensate, so why would lawyers go the route of getting the police involved and creating problems such as illegal arrests and detention, clogging our courts and prison congestions? Lawyers MUST BE SANCTIONED AND PUNISHED for their role in corrupting the system and facilitating injustice.
“We must clamp down on lawyers who use petitions to oppress the weak and vulnerable. If Lawyers are to continue to write petitions like these, they must be made to submit these petitions in triplicate; one to the police, one to the office of the DPP, and the last one to the Bar Association. If it is found that the petition written by a lawyer was written with the intent of oppressing his client’s adversary then that lawyer should pay damages to the victim of such transaction and be suspended from practicing for about six months.
“Submitting these petitions will also help in data collection and tracking the number of awaiting-trial inmates whose incarceration was a result of a petition written by a lawyer.
“We have for long blamed the police for converting civil cases into criminal cases but now we have our spotlight on lawyers who deliberately misdirect clients for unjust gain.
“The wheels of justice only turn slowly because we lawyers have put obstacles in their way. The Attorney Generals and the Judiciary must take drastic steps in ensuring that we end this menace once and for all. We in the legal profession must also call out our colleagues who partake in sabotaging our administration of the criminal justice system. Our Bar leaders and senior lawyers should play their part and end the indiscipline within the legal profession.”