President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called on African countries to adopt the policy of free compulsory education from kindergarten to senior high school (SHS) as one of the surest ways to transform the continent from its current state of poverty to prosperity.
He stated that Ghana had adopted the policy because it ensured that no matter the circumstance of his or her birth, where he or she came from or where he or she was born, no child would be denied education.
Delivering the keynote address at the 58th Annual General Conference of the 160,000-member Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja, President Akufo-Addo said free compulsory education from kindergarten to SHS was the only way to create an educated workforce to accelerate the process of development.
“We must start with investing in our children and young people as the surest way to guarantee a prosperous future,” he said.
The President urged members of the legal fraternity in Ghana, Nigeria and the rest of Africa to uphold the integrity of the profession and ensure that the rule of law was upheld at all times.
“In both our countries, Nigeria and Ghana, it must be a source of pride for us that lawyers were at the forefront of the fight for liberation from colonialism. Indeed, since independence, lawyers have moved seamlessly between politics and the legal profession,” he said.
He stated that although the legal fraternity had a lot to be proud of in the role lawyers had played in trying to promote democracy, it was also true that lawyers had 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,” the President said.
“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’s Oliver Twist, ‘The law is an ass — an idiot’,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo with the Emir of Kano, and members of the planning committee of the Nigerian Bar Association
Outside literature, he said, it was common in everyday life to hear disparaging comments on the legal profession, adding that “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 those criticisms and respond in a manner that asserted 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 said, “none of these things could be done effectively without engaging the long, octopus arms of the legal profession in one way or another”.
He wondered why the cost of building a simple classroom block was so high when the government was doing it but remarkably different when it was being executed by the private sector and said Ghana, under his leadership, was making efforts to deal with that phenomenon by enhancing the country’s procurement processes.
He said simply 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. The whole of 2016, the year before I took office, the authority made zero savings. We will continue with this development”.