A bill for an amendment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Bureau Act scaled second reading at the Nigerian 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 was subsequently referred to the committees on Judiciary and Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
The committees is to 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 as 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 (the CCT).
Mr. Nwaoboshi’s bill therefore proposes that before a public officer is accused of breaching the Code of Conduct law and referred to the Tribunal, the officer should first be allowed to make a statement in writing.
That is the crux of Mr. Saraki’s argument against his ongoing corruption trial at the Tribunal. He repeatedly 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 the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code as a procedural template.
The bill was supported by several 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 another one by Isah Misau (APC-Bauchi State), which seeks the amendment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, was read for the first time on Tuesday.
The bill seeking an amendment of the ACJA 2015 wants 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 the usage of the criminal justice law illegitimate for the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
It was also slated for second reading Thursday but was stepped down, and its consideration fixed for a later date.
The two bills were introduced at a time the Senate President Saraki is facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal with prosecutors relying on the two laws for which amendments are now being sought.
The senators’ action has fuelled suspicion that the amendments are being vigorously pushed to help the Senate President stave off conviction.
The haste at which the amendments are being rushed such as slating them for second reading within 48 hours has further fueled public suspicion.
The two amendments were sponsored by two of Mr. Saraki’s staunchest supporters, Messrs. Nwaoboshi and Misau.
A Senator of the All Progressives Congress from Kebbi State, Abdullahi Yahaya, raised that point in plenary, saying the timing of the amendments would remain a subject of suspicion, although he did not oppose the action.
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 the amendment would in no way benefit Mr. Saraki since his trial started last year before the effective year – 2016 – of the proposed law.
He said the Senate only summoned courage to ensure justice for everyone.
Also justifying the amendments, Mrs. Olujimi said, “If you don’t assist your neighbour when his house is burning, it will extend to yours.”
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