A bill for an amendment of Code of Conduct Tribunal and Bureau Act scaled second reading at Senate, Thursday, just 48 hours after it was first read.
In Nigeria’s lawmaking process, rarely do bills get such accelerated legislative action.
The bill sponsored by Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP-Delta State), passed second reading and subsequently referred to the committees on Judiciary and Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
The committees will report back in two weeks.
The bill seeks to amend Section 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act “to give every public officer appearing (before the) Bureau fair hearing provided for under Section 36 (2)(a) of the CFRN 1999 which provides:
“for an opportunity for the person whose rights and obligations may be affected to make representations to the administering authority before that authority makes the decision affecting that person.”
The existing law, Mr. Nwaoboshi said in his lead argument, does not provide for the Bureau, CCB, to take written statement from concerned public officers before referring a matter of alleged non-compliance to the Tribunal, CCT.
Therefore, Mr. Nwaoboshi’s bill proposes that before a public officer suspected to have breached Code of Conduct law is referred to the Tribunal, the officer should first be allowed to take down his statement in writing.
This is the subject of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s last motion against his ongoing corruption trial at the Tribunal.He asked that the case against him be dismissed, since he was not invited by the CCB to give a written statement.
The Amendment bill also seeks to stop the CCT from using Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code as a procedural template.
The bill was supported by the lawmakers who yelled “hai” when the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, put the question.
There was silence when the “nay” question was put.
Senators – Dino Melaye, Jibrin Barau, Abu Ibrahim, Abiodun Olujimi, Samuel Anyanwu – spoke in favour of the bill.
FUELLING PUBLIC SUSPICION
The bill, along with other one by Isah Misau (APC-Bauchi State) which seeks amendment of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015, was read for the first time on Tuesday.
The other bill seeking amendment of ACJA 2015 wants to the provision of the Act not to “apply to a Court Martial and such other Courts or Tribunal not being courts created and listed under Section 6 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.”
In essence, if passed the ACJA amendment bill will make usage of the Criminal justice law illegitimate for the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
It was also slated for second reading today but was stepped down, thereby making its consideration come up on a later date.
The two bills were introduced at a time the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal where prosecutor relies on the two Acts for which amendments are sought.
This fuelled suspicion that the amendments of the two Acts, affecting Mr. Saraki’s trial, are targeted at helping the Senate President stave off conviction.
The two amendments were sponsored by two of Mr. Saraki’s staunchest supporters, Messrs. Messrs. Nwaoboshi and Misau, and that slating them for second reading within 48 hours will further fuel public suspicion.
A Senator of the All Progressives Congress from Kebbi State, Abdullahi Yahaya, noted this, saying the timing of the amendment would remain a subject of suspicion, though he did not oppose the amendment.
But Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the amendment was not meant to favour Mr. Saraki.
“The amendment is not to affect the current CCT trial in which the Senate President is involved,” he said.
He maintained that it could not have had implication for Mr. Saraki’s trial since it had started since last year before the effective year, 2016, of the proposed law.
He said the Senate only summoned courage to ensure justice and protection of rights of everybody.
Also justifying the amendment and discarding question of suspicion, Mrs. Olujimi said, “if you don’t assist your neighbour when his house is burning, it will extend to yours.”