Vengeful Senate Speeds up Passage of Bill to Cut Powers of CCB
Barely 24 hours after it was introduced, a bill seeking to amend the Act establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as well as the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has already undergone second reading in the Senate, an unusual commitment by the same Senate that has stalled in the passage of Petroleum Industry Bill for years.
The bill went through second reading on Thursday at a session presided by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu, PDP) who presided at plenary and ensured an accelerated hearing for the bill.
While presenting the lead debate, Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North) said that the amendment would redraft Section 3(d) of the CCT Act.
The new section of the bill when redrafted according to the lead debate is to read thus: “…receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau having regard to any statement taken or to be taken after such subsequent complaint is made considers it necessary to do so, investigate the complaint and where appropriate refer such complaint to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act and the Constitution in accordance with the provisions of Section 20 to 25 of this Act.”
Nwaoboshi said that the procedural codes that were currently being employed by the Tribunal were not provided for in the nation’s constitution. “It is clear that the Act does not contemplate criminal trial so the usage of Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code should not be used as a procedural template in the Tribunal,” the Senator said.
“In due course, I will present to this distinguished Senate a comprehensive amendment of the Third Schedule to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Rules of procedure which should be distinct rules for proceedings in the Code of Conduct Tribunal,” he said further.
Expectedly, the amended enjoyed wide-ranging support from Senators across party divides.
Sen. Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) in his contribution said that the amendment was very apt as it was now clear that the CCT was delving into criminal trials. “Section 3(d) stipulated that before a prosecution can start, the person in question would have to be communicated and he must respond to the Bureau,” he said, adding: “After investigation by the Bureau then they will transfer for prosecution. It is stipulated that you must have a minimum of three judges before they can sit, but as it is today, we have two judges yet trial is ongoing.
“When the two judges take different position, what happens?” he queried.
The Minority Whip of the Senate, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti) said: “we are licensed as senators to look at Acts and Laws to see how we can make them better: there is no doubt that this Act needs amendment. We do not want the Act to be used inconclusively, this is a straight forward thing, it should go to the committee and we conclude.”
But Senator Yahaya Abdulahi (APC, Kebbi North) expressed some worry with the timing in view of the ongoing trial of the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki at the Tribunal. He supported the amendment, nonetheless.
“What I am against is the timing, we must be wary about public perception about the position of the senate,” he said, adding that “the Nigerian people could perceive this to mean that we did not challenge this Act until now that our principal officer is standing trial.
“I have nothing against this amendment because it brings fairness: if I am being treated the way our principal officer is being treated it would not be good but for the credibility of this Senate I think we should re-examine the timing of this,” he submitted.
In a swift response, Senator Ekweremadu stated that the amendment had nothing to do with the trial of the President of the Senate at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“This bill will not affect the proceedings at the code of conduct tribunal, we should not be afraid to do the job which the constitution has given us.
“We support the CCB and the CCT but we must make sure that in doing their work, there must be fairness and respect for human rights. We must at all times be courageous to do our work.”