Saraki’s trial: NASS speed up bill to weaken executive power

Saraki’s trial: NASS speed up bill to weaken executive power
April 14 23:05 2016

By Mathew Pam

[I]n a continuation of efforts to weaken the influence of the executive arm of government over the country’s anti-corruption agencies, Nigerian lawmakers have resolved to speed up a bill meant to take the Code of Conduct Bureau and other relevant agencies away from the control of the Presidency.

The bill scaled second reading
at the Senate on Thursday,
48 hours after it was first
read.

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.

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.