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UPHOLD RULE OF LAW PRESIDENT CGARGES AFRICAN LAWYERS

General News

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has charged members of the legal fraternity on the African continent to ensure that the rule of law is upheld at all times in their respective countries.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has charged members of the legal fraternity on the African continent to ensure that the rule of law is upheld at all times in their respective countries.

 

He also urged them to uphold the integrity of the legal profession, taking cognizance of the high respect accorded lawyers in society.

President Akufo-Addo gave the charge yesterday when he addressed members of the Nigeria Bar Association at their 58th Annual General Conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

The President stated that both Ghana and Nigeria hold one thing in common when it comes to the fight for independence.

“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.

Challenges with profession

He noted that even though the legal fraternity has a lot to be proud of in the role played by lawyers in trying to promote democracy in our countries, 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’”.

He held that it was 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, a lot of things cannot 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.

Public procurement

Referring to cost of public works to the state, the President said all must be ashamed at the unreasonable levels of cost charged to the state for public works. 

 “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.

The President told his audience that after reviewing contracts brought before the Public Procurement Authority for approval, under either sole sourcing or restrictive tendering, “we have, in the past 18 months, saved the country some GH¢1.6 billion, approximately $400 million.”

Continental free trade      

He further urged Nigeria to give its assent to the Continental Free Trade Area, Africa’s single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.

According to President Akufo-Addo, with Nigeria’s dynamic population, sense of enterprise of her people, and the size of her economy, the country has nothing to be afraid of. He believes, on the contrary, Nigeria stands to be the major beneficiary of any such market.

The accelerated economic integration of committed nations, he said, would breathe new life into the African Union, and deliver the benefits of African integration to the doorsteps of the African peoples.

 “I believe it is extremely important for the welfare of the 1.2 billion people of the continent that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to operationalize the African Common Market. It is my fervent hope that Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, will very soon assent to this Agreement,” he said.

West Africa’s current population of 350 million is set to reach a population of 500 million in 20 years, with continent set to increase from 1.2 million to 2 billion people in 20 years. The President, therefore, noted that “genuine regional and continental markets in Africa should be in the mutual interests of Ghana and Nigeria.”

Free SHS

Touching on education, President Akufo-Addo urged African leaders to start investing in their children and young people as the surest way to guarantee a prosperous future.

He mentioned the free SHS policy launched by his government in September last year.

“In the first year of its implementation 90,000 more Ghanaian children gained access to Senior High School in 2017 than in 2016. It is anticipated that in September this year, one hundred and eighty thousand (180,000) more children will be admitted into senior high school,” he said.

He said this was to ensure that every Ghanaian child is not denied education.

Even though he would not want to prescribe policy initiatives for other countries, President Akufo-Addo noted: “I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending that all African countries adopt the policy of free compulsory education from kindergarten to senior high school.”