Senators Divided Over CCB/CCT Amendment Bill
In a jiffy, a Bill seeking the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Act scaled second reading in the Senate yesterday barely 48 hours after its introduction by the upper chamber.
This was even as the Senate set machinery in motion for amendment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act next week Tuesday, with a view to removing jurisdictional power of CCT on criminal matters as currently being exercised through Saraki’s trial.
The Bill, which is sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaboshi (PDP, Delta North) was first introduced on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday April 12, 2016 and passed for second reading yesterday after making a lead debate on it.
The Bill entitled, “A Bill for an Act to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991 and for other related Matters, 2016” aims among others, to remove the Bureau from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Leading debate on the Bill, Senator Nwaboshi explained that same sought to amend Section three 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 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
He noted that the proposed amendment altered Subsections 3(b) and 3(c) to give fair hearing, equity and justice to every public officer that was invited to appear before the Bureau in line with the constitutional provisions.
According to the lawmaker, the Third Schedule of the Principal Act was amended by completely deleting same because the Act did not contemplate criminal trial of an invited public officer.
In their contributions, Senators Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), Samuel Anyanwu (PDP Imo East) , Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), Biodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South) and Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC Yobe East), all supported the bill, saying that the amendment was long overdue, in view of the fact that the Principal Act was subject to abuse.
However, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North), cautioned the Senate to be weary of public opinion on the amendment because of the current trial of Saraki, noting that the proposal was ill-timed.
He said: “I rise just to raise a point of caution. I have read and gone through the areas where the amendments are sought and I am not against it but what I have against is the timing.
“We must be ready on the issue of public perception about the position of the Senate in this regard. Perception can be reality, the Nigerian people can easily interpret the action we are taking today to mean that for all this years, a decree which became law since 1991 is not being challenged until today that our principal officer is standing before the same tribunal.
“We have nothing against the content and the philosophy and the values that my friend Peter Nwaboshi is bringing because it enhances both the fairness in all public officers. I used to be a public officer.
“I retired as a federal permanent secretary. If I were treated the way our principal was being treated, I would not have been so treated in a better manner.
“I think for the credibility of this Senate, I think we should re-examine whether the timing is right for this bill to go through the second reading.”
But the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said that the bill had nothing to do with Saraki’s trial, and was not intended to interfere in any way with the process at the CCT.
He also explained that the Bill, if passed into law, would not have retrospective effect, and therefore, should not be misinterpreted to be intended to truncate or meddle with Saraki’s trial.
“Let me just say that this Bill absolutely has nothing to do with the proceedings going on at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in which the Senate President is involved because his trial has commenced as you are aware.
“If you look at the commencement of the bill, the last paragraph of course of the bill says this bill maybe sighted as a code of conduct bureau tribunal Act amendment bill, 2016. That means that the bill is not being made retroactively as to affect the proceedings at the code of conduct tribunal; certainly it has nothing to do with it.
“We are only doing our work as a parliamentarians and it is our responsibility to ensure that there is justice for all at all times, and we must not be afraid or scared to the job which the constitution has given us.
“I believe that it is in the course of our duty that this amendment is being proposed because the code of conduct tribunal has come to stay and with all intent and purpose we support the tribunal; we support the bureau but we would also make sure that in doing their work, there is also fairness, equity and all the principles enunciated in the chapter four of our constitution dealing with human rights.”