The Nigerian Senate has passed the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Amendment Bill, transferring regulatory powers of the President to the National Assembly.
The Bill, which was passed during Thursday’s plenary, was in concurrence with the House of Representatives, after the Senate considered the report of its committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions.
In amending the act establishing the CCB and CCT, the Assembly altered section 18 (2) to enable the National Assembly do the conferment of additional powers on the CCB instead of the President as provided for in the extant Act.
It also stopped the President from enjoying the powers of exempting public officers from investigation and trial, instead it gave that power to the National Assembly. Section 18 (1) of the existing Act reads:
“The President may by order exempt any cadre of public officers from the provisions of this Act if it appears to him that their position in the public service is below the rank which he considers appropriate for the application of those provisions while Section 18(2) of the existing Act provided that the President may by order confer on the Bureau such additional powers as may appear to him to be necessary to enable it to discharge more effectively the functions conferred upon it under this act.”
The implication of this is that, if the amendment is signed into law by the President, the CCB and CCT which are currently under the direct supervision of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will now be reporting to the National Assembly.
The transfer of regulatory authority would enable cases of exception, including conferment of additional powers under the proposed Act, to be handled by the National Assembly instead of the President. The Senate further reduced the tenure of chairman and members from serving until they are 70, to a renewable term of five years.
According to the new provision, “the chairman and members shall serve for a term of five years subject to renewal for one further term,” it stated. Section 20 (4) of the proposed Act made it mandatory for the appointment of the chairman and members of the CCT to be subjected to the confirmation of the Senate.
Another important amendment effected to the CCT/CCB Act is to make it compulsory for any case of breach or non-compliance to be brought to the notice of the person concerned to enable him make a written admission of such breach or non-compliance and where such is done, there shall be no reference to the Tribunal.
However, after presenting the report of the Committee by its Chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, some members of the rivalry Senate Unity Forum (SUF), rose to oppose the passage of the bill, arguing that it would create negative impression in the minds of the public because of the current trial of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, at the Tribunal.
Senators Ahmad Lawan, Barnabas Gemade, Kabiru Marafa and Abdullahi Adamu, all of the Forum, strongly opposed its passage and suggested that it should be withdrawn.
However, when it was put to voice vote by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over Thursday’s plenary, majority of the senators approved that the Chamber should go ahead with the clause by clause consideration resulting to its eventual passage.
In his contribution, Senator Ahmed Lawan said, “the Senate is a moderator on legislation. This bill emanated from the House of Representatives and our colleagues there passed it. I agree totally with the submissions of some of our colleagues here that we don’t have to tarry to pass it.
“Sir, we will be doing ourselves and this National Assembly a better service if we step down this thing and move on to some other things, and then we will make this a better bill only when we convince ourselves that what we are trying to do is not for our sake,” he argued.
But Senator Shehu Sanni, while contributing, urged the Senate to go on with the consideration, stressing that the legislation was not targeted at any person or group of persons but for the benefit of the present and future Nigerians.
“We have already moved to discuss this bill. Laws are not made for individuals and for a specific period of time. They are made for posterity, for future generations. We will all someday stand to account for the laws we make in this Chamber and I believe it will be suspicious of Nigerians to start this process now and midway we simply stop it.
There is no controversy in it; what is right is right, what is wrong is wrong. We are not making laws for the convenience and comfort of somebody whether in or out of government. As far as I am concerned I believe that since we have wisdom to table this we should have the courage to see it through.”
Senator Ekweremadu had to intervene and cautioned Senator Ahmed Lawan against describing the amendment of the Bill as self serving.
According to the Deputy Senate President, “for the purposes of the public, I think we need to put this in proper perspective. This bill came as a House bill and like other House bills we concurred but in reference to this we decided to send it to the committee so that they can have another look at it, we would have passed it that same day. But we sent it to the committee and he came up this morning. The question was put as to whether we should consider it and the answer was yes. So, we didn’t just consider it because we wanted to consider it, the question was properly put whether we should go to the committee on the whole to consider it and everybody said yes.
Now we are taking it clause by clause but we have not jumped to any particular clause sometimes we take two or three clauses but here because of the sensitive nature of this we are taking it clause by clause and we are even bending over backwards to reconsider issues.
So it will be unfair to us to accuse ourselves here of being unnecessarily hasty and that is not fair to this Senate. So, please if the Leader wants to change his mind about reconsidering the bill, I don’t have problem with it. But we should not create the impression that there is any haste in reconsidering this bill and we have followed the rules to the latter up to this moment.”
The Senate introduced a similar bill in April, this year, and referred it to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions but it was suspended because of the public outcry as a result of the trial of the Senate Leadership at the CCT.