President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged members of the legal fraternity in Ghana, Nigeria and the continent to uphold the integrity of the profession and thereby ensure that the rule of law is upheld at all times.
Speaking at the 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, President Akufo-Addo noted that the legal profession has a rarefied position in our societies, and lawyers are assured of a special status.
“In both our countries, Nigeria and Ghana, it must be a source of pride for us that lawyers were in the forefront of the fight for liberation from colonialism. Indeed, since independence, lawyers have moved seamlessly between politics and the legal profession,” he said.
Whereas the legal fraternity has a lot to be proud of in the role played by lawyers in trying to promote democracy in our countries, the President stated that it is also true that lawyers have not always done themselves proud.
“The sad truth is that there have always been lawyers ready to find a way to justify some negative developments, no matter how bizarre. It is not surprising, therefore, that sometimes our profession has attracted the most cynical of comments,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo continued, “I hasten to add that this is not a new phenomenon as the legal profession has been bashed throughout the ages; be it from Shakespeare and the much argued over, ‘first, let’s kill all the lawyers’ or the line from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, ‘The law is an ass — an idiot’”.
Outside literature, he noted that it is not uncommon in everyday life to hear disparaging comment on the legal profession, “our fees charged for our services being the regular source of unhappiness, or the judicial process, which many feel does not deliver justice to them.”
He urged lawyers on the continent to be aware of these criticisms, and respond in a manner that asserts the integrity of the legal profession and its determination to uphold the rule of law.
In every facet of life on the continent, President Akufo-Addo stated that none of these things can be done effectively without engaging the long, octopus arms of the legal profession in one way or the other.
“There are contracts to be drawn and awarded, there are finances to be negotiated and they all need to be done efficiently and with speed; and at reasonable cost to the state,” he stressed.
Referring to cost of public works to the State, the President stated that the cost of public works should shame us all.
“Our architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and, yes, lawyers surely have to answer why it costs more for the state to build everything in Ghana and Nigeria than it does in other parts of the world,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo wondered why the cost of building a simple classroom block is so high when the government is doing it, and so remarkably different when it is being done by the private sector.
“We are making efforts in Ghana to deal with this phenomenon by enhancing our procurement processes,” he said.
Simply reviewing contracts brought before the Public Procurement Authority for approval, under either sole sourcing or restrictive tendering, President Akufo-Addo stated that “we have, in the past 18 months, saved the country some GH¢1.6 billion, approximately $400 million. The whole of 2016, the year before I took Office, the Authority made zero savings. We will continue with this development.”