The Senate yesterday amended the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (CCB/CCT Act) tinkering with Section 18(1) & (2) of the extant law by transferring the president’s regulatory power over the bureau and tribunal to the National Assembly.
The parliament also reintroduced a provision which authorises the CCB to invite anyone found culpable in asset declaration to make necessary correction as against being charged to the tribunal for trial. This provision had earlier been expunged from the extant law.
It was the deleting of this provision in the extant law that paved the way for Senate President Bukola Saraki, whose appeal on the jurisdiction of the CCT to try him for alleged concealment of assets was for the second time dismissed yesterday in Abuja.
The new amendment contained in Section 3 (e) of the bill provides that “upon complaint(s) of any breach or where it appears to the Bureau that there is a breach of the provisions of this Act, the person concerned shall be given particulars of such non-compliance or breaches to explain before any reference to the tribunal”.
The Senate also amended Section 1(4) of the current CCB/CCT Act which stipulates that the chairman of the CCB and members shall vacate their seats upon attaining the retirement age of 70.
The new amendment now prescribes a renewable five-year tenure for the chairman and members of the Bureau following their appointments by the president and subject to Senate confirmation. “The chairman and members shall serve for a term of five years subject to renewal for one term only,” the new amendment states.
The passage of the bill, which was at concurrence with the House of Representatives’ bill that had earlier been passed, followed the adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions presented by the committee Chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu.
However, the Senate rejected an amendment to Section 4(2) of the extant law which had also sought to transfer the power of appointment and discipline of chairman and members of the CCB to the National Assembly.
Section 4(2) of the Act, which the committee amended to be the exclusive preserve of the National Assembly, states that: “The power to appoint member of staff of the Bureau and to exercise disciplinary control over them shall vest in the Bureau and shall be exercisable in accordance with the provisions of rules and regulations as may from time to be made by the president.”
But this amendment was rejected. If the Senate had accepted this amendment, the National Assembly would have stripped the president of the power of appointment and disciplinary control over the CCB.
The Senate also rejected an amendment to Section 1(2) (b) of the CCB/CCT Act, which provides that anyone who shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman of CCB, must have attained 50 years of age.
The amendment prescribed by the committee had reduced the age of eligibility for appointment for CCB chairmanship from 50 to 30 years but this amendment was rejected while the provision of 50 years as contained in the extant Act was retained.
But the Senate succeeded in stripping the president of the power of total control over the CCB by amending section 18(1) & (2) of the CCB/CCT Act and simultaneously transferring such powers to the National Assembly.
Section 18(1) & (2) of the extant Act provides thus: “The president may by order exempt any cadre of public officers from the provisions of the Act if it appears to him that their position in the public service is below the rank which it considers appropriate for the application of those provisions.
“The president may by order confer on the Bureau such additional powers as may appear to it to be necessary to enable it discharge more effectively the functions conferred upon it under this Act.”
The “president” in the above provisions has now been substituted with “National Assembly” which implies that the National Assembly will now determine the power of the CCB.
Also in the amendment, the National Assembly will now determine who should be exempted from asset declaration or not.
Whereas Section 20(4) of the current CCB/CCT Act authorises the president to appoint the chairman of the CCT based on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the new amendment passed yesterday makes such recommendation and appointment invalid unless it is approved by the Senate.
Also Section 20(2) of the extant act, which states that members of the tribunal shall consist of the chairman and two other members, has been amended to provide that “the tribunal shall consist of a chairman and four others and three of the five shall form a quorum.”
However, the amendment retains the retirement age for CCT Chairman as contained in Section 22(1) at 70.
The Senate also passed the Sexual Harassment Bill, which prescribes five years imprisonment for lecturers found culpable of sexual harassment yesterday. The bill was sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central).
Appeal Court Dismisses Saraki’s Appeal
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, yesterday turned down the appeal of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to stop the CCT from prosecuting him for alleged infraction of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
The appellate court affirmed the ruling of the tribunal to the effect that the CCT has the jurisdiction to try him on charges of false assets declaration brought against him by the federal government.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Abdul Aboki, the court held that the major issues raised by Saraki had been overtaken by events.
Four other members of the panel unanimously agreed with the lead judgment delivered by Aboki who resolved all the eight issues formulated for determination against Saraki.
While affirming the earlier ruling of the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, that the CCT had power to prosecute the Senate president as charged, Aboki held among others that contrary to Saraki’s contention, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has the power to institute charges against him before the tribunal.
The appeal court also held that under the constitution, the CCB was not under any obligation to invite the appellant to enable him to make written admission of breaches in his asset declaration forms before charges could be initiated against him.
The court held that the tribunal had rightly departed from its earlier decision in which it wrongly discharged a former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bola Tinubu, on account that he was not invited by the CCB and was not confronted with allegations levelled against him.
Aboki said that the CCT erred in law when it discharged Tinubu on the ground that he was not invited to make a written statement before he was charged to court, adding that the CCT had in subsequent judgments after Tinubu’s case corrected itself.
The court also held that the fact that the charges were initiated against Saraki 13 years after the offences were allegedly committed was immaterial and could not be a ground to invalidate the charge.
Aboki said that the contention was sentimental and that no court would go into sentimental issues that had no bearing on the law.
This was the second time the appeal court would deliver judgment on the same subject matter of jurisdiction of the CCT to try the Senate president.
The court had last year ruled against Saraki on the jurisdiction of the CCT and asked him to proceed to face the 16-count charge preferred against him.
The judgment of the appeal court was validated by the Supreme Court in February this year prompting the resumption of his trial at the CCT.