Reps Amend Code Of Conduct Act Despite Senate’s Withdrawal | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Reps Amend Code Of Conduct Act Despite Senate’s Withdrawal

Posted: Jun 1, 2016 at 4:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

…Strip President Of Power To Appoint CCT Members





Barely six weeks after the Senate bowed to public pressure and withdrew proposed amendments to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act, the House of Representatives on Tuesday considered and passed 10 amendments to the same Act.

Senate President Bukola Saraki is facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged false asset declaration when he was governor of Kwara State.

It would be recalled that the Senate on April 20 was forced to suspend debate on the proposed amendments to the CCB, CCT Act due to public outcry by Nigerians and civil society organisations who began fighting against the amendment since it was read for the first time on the floor of the Senate.

Generating controversy particularly was the proposed amendment to Section 3 of the Act, to add paragraph (e), which says “upon complaint(s) of any breach or where it appears to the Bureau that there is a breach of the provision or this Act, the person concerned shall be given particulars of such non-compliance or breaches to explain before any reference to the tribunal”.

By amending this section, the CCB would not have powers to immediately refer a matter to the CCT, which was what obtains currently in the Act.

Passing the bill for second reading on the floor of the Senate, presiding officer and Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, had defended the move, stating that the amendment had nothing to do with Saraki’s trial at the CCT.

The House also amended Section 1 (4) which was deleted and replaced with “the chairman and members shall serve for a term of five years subject to renewal for one further term only”.

Section 4 (2) was also amended to substitute the word “president” with “the National Assembly” as the one to appoint members of staff of the Bureau and exercise disciplinary control over them.

The bill to amend the CCB/CCT Act, which was sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaboshi (Delta North/PDP) first surfaced in the chamber on April 12, but was widely viewed as a move to ambush the Conduct of Conduct Tribunal because of ongoing trial of the Senate president.

The amendment had passed both first and second reading before the Senate suddenly aborted the process.

Organised labour had warned that the move was not only dangerous to the fight against corruption, but also self-serving.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) contended that it was intriguing that it took the trial of the Senate President for the Senate to discover that there were flaws in the law setting up the CCB and CCT.

NLC in a statement by Ayuba Wabba said: “In the past one week, the Senate initiated a process for the amendment of the Act establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

“In furtherance of its objective, the Senate fast-tracked the process of this amendment via two readings (first and second) within 48 hours. It has also set in motion the process for removing the jurisdictional powers of CCT on criminal matters via the amendment of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act.

“We at the Nigeria Labour Congress hold the view that the noble intention of the Senate notwithstanding, the timing is suspect and fraught with danger.”

Also civil rights groups under the aegis of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) condemned the process.

SERAP had petitioned Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, asking him to use his good offices and position to urgently request the Senate to withdraw amendments to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act.

According to the group, the amendment, if passed into law, would seriously weaken the Act, undermine the fight against corruption in the country, and exacerbate extreme poverty and violations of internationally recognised human rights.

Sponsor of the Bill, Senator Nwaboshi (Delta North) and arch-supporter of the Senate President Saraki had argued that the bill was aimed at saving Nigerians from desperate and overzealous politicians.

Nwaboshi described the bill as “a patriotic” piece of legislation that should be quickly passed to make the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) independent.

On the timing of the proposed amendment, the Delta North lawmaker said that he was prompted to initiate the bill after reading the judgment of the Supreme Court on the trial of Saraki.

He added that timing or no timing, his duty is to Nigerians and to Nigerians alone.

Explaining what he meant that the objective of the bill is to save Nigerians from overzealous and desperate politicians, Nwaboshi said: “The CCB and the CCT are under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. It is clear to every Nigerian that the SGF is a politician. He can use the organs as a weapon against his opponents.

“Since the Supreme Court has ruled that the CCT is a court, the CCB and CCT should not report to a politician. It should be made an independent body that should be seen to be neutral and independent of any politician.

“The original framers of the CCB and CCT Act did not intend to create an institution that should be used as a weapon by an individual.”