Why Code of Conduct Bureau Should n’t be Removed from the Constitution

09 Dec 2012

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Code of Conduct Bureau Chairman,  Sam Saba

Ademola Adebo
In 1988 the Political Bureau in its report which government accepted, observed that corruption and indiscipline were the bane of our development.  It thus recommended the strengthening of existing machineries for monitoring the actions and behavior  of public officers, to ensure that they conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability.

Following this recommendation, the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal were established as twin-sister agencies to enforce the Code of Conduct for Public Officers as provided in the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  These provisions have been retained in the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

The Code of Conduct Bureau is enshrined in the Third Schedule Part 1, Section A while the Code of Conduct for Public Officers can be found in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of Nigerian Constitution. The original Decree of 1989 has since metamorphosed into the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Overview of the Code of Conduct Bureau::
The Code of Conduct Bureau is the foremost anti-Corruption Agency set up by the Federal Government to combat corrupt practices in the Public Service.  It was established to monitor and enforce compliance with the Code of Conduct for public officers.  It is also the only Agency empowered by the Constitution to administer Assets Declarations and to monitor the conduct of all Public Officers in the Federal, States and Local Government Councils.

The Bureau accordingly has the mandate “to establish and maintain a high standard of morality in the conduct of Government business and to ensure that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability”.  It is only the Code of Conduct Bureau that is vested with these all important responsibilities in our Constitution.

Since coming into full operation in 1989,the Bureau has been doing all within its powers and limited resources to put public officers in constant check through public enlightenment, administering of Assets Declaration Forms (Form CCB-1) to public officers, and prosecuting erring officers at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

At the moment, more efforts are being channeled into prevention of various abuses of public office through constant monitoring of public officers’ assets base and verification of same at regular intervals, workshops, seminars and other forms of public enlightenments.

Statutory  Functions  of The  Bureau
The functions of the Code of Conduct Bureau as provided in paragraph 3 of the Third Schedule, Part 1, Section A of the Constitution are as follows:
(a) To receive declarations by Public Officers made under paragraph 11 of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.
(b) Examine the declarations in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct or any law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(c Retain custody of such declarations and make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe.
(d) Ensure compliance with and where appropriate enforce the provisions of the Code of Conduct or any other related law.
(e)Receive complaints of non-compliance with the Code of Conduct, investigate the complaint and where appropriate refer such matters to the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Our Position on The Planned Removal of The  Code of Conduct From The Constitution
  (a)   The Code of Conduct Bureau has a very clear and unique mandate to fight corruption through Code of Conduct for Public Officers especially the assets declaration process, which according to a World Bank report, is the system that is operational in 101 countries worldwide and entrenched in the Constitution of about 22 countries including Nigeria.
(Refer to Appendix 1 attached).

(b)The inimical effects of Corruption on the economic and socio -  political development of the  country  are colossal and consequently the Code of Conduct Bureau should be further  empowered with constitutional back-up for it to have the needed potency for effectiveness.   Its removal from the Constitution will not just render it susceptible to abuse and manipulation, it would further weaken the efforts of the Bureau in the implementation of the mandate of checking corruption in public service.

(c)  Furthermore, the corporate image of the country has been greatly eroded with Nigeria being rated by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It is for this reason that the war against corruption has become an issue of national priority, prominence and importance.  The retention of the Code of Conduct in the constitution is consequently not only desirable but imperative so as to emphasize the importance the country attaches to the establishment and execution of assigned mandate by the Bureau.  To do otherwise will amount to sending wrong signals to the citizenry and the international community, this can affect not only international confidence on good governance and intent of government of Nigeria but also create skepticism on the part of foreign investors and diplomats.

Only recently, at the Bi-national Commission meeting between Nigeria and USA, the United States government urged that out country’s elected and senior public officials make their assets declaration public.  This is a fall out amid the rising public despair about official graft in the country.  Of course, this is not surprising in the face of the recent pension scam and the House of Representative Committee on Fuel Subsidy bribery saga.    

These incidents have put a heavy scar on the country’s anti-corruption drive that removing this vital instrument of checking corruption that has been acknowledged the world over as an effective deterrence in fighting corruption would only be sending wrong signals to Nigerians and the outside world that the country is not serious, after all, about fighting the scourge.

(d)  The Constitution is the Grundnorm and the organic law of Nigeria.  It is supreme law for the country, and once the powers, rights and limitations are identified as having been established, their existence cannot be challenged or disputed in any Court of Law.  This explains why the Code of Conduct was enshrined in the Constitution.  It was deliberate and meant to forestall a challenge to any of the powers of the Code of Conduct Bureau and to give it utmost free and unfettered environment to carry out its mandate. All other Acts of Parliament and Legislations are subsidiary and inferior to the Constitution and where the provisions of other Acts are in conflict or inconsistent with any provision of the constitution, it is rendered null and void.   While the provisions of all other Acts or Laws can be challenged in a Court of Law and, if successful, nullified, the provisions of the Constitution are sacrosanct and cannot be nullified by any Court of Law.  The Courts can only interpret and explain their extent and implications, in cases properly brought before it.  It is for this reason that the Code of Conduct should remain in the Constitution and thus empower the agency with Constitutional backing to effectively carry out its mandate.  Constitution being the highest law of the land, if fighting corruption is an uppermost desire of state towards instituting transparency and accountability in governance, then the Code of Conduct should be part of the highest law of the land.  It should therefore be retained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(e) The Seventh Schedule to the Constitution contains the Oaths of Allegiance and Oaths of Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Vice-President, and also those of the State Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers and the Judicial Oath.  This also applies to the members of the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly and it is pursuant to Sections 52, 94, 135, 140, 142,  180,  185,  187,  194 and 290 of the Constitution which makes it mandatory for these class of persons named therein to swear to.

The Oaths of Office all contain the phrase:
“That I will abide by the Code of Conduct

  contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution  of the Federal Republic of Nigeria……………”.
This clearly shows the importance and significance placed on the Code of Conduct with particular reference to taking of Oath of Office by Public Officers, consequently the need for its retention in the Constitution.

Removal from the Constitution will render the strategic and legal importance of taking Oath of Office meaningless and of no consequence.  Furthermore, to remove it from the Constitution is to whittle down its effect and take away the Constitutional flavor which it presently enjoys.

The inclusion of Code of Conduct in the constitution indirectly protects public officers who abide by it, because it is a constitutional requirement done under oath before a High Court Judge, and thus given serious legal backing. 
Legal documentation of assets and liabilities by public officers can insulate declarants against blatant allegations of abuse of office and false accusations of illegal acquisitions which can become matters of unnecessary petitions and persistent litigations in the courts since the declarations are, by the constitutional and legal process, legal documents that have been put through oath taking.

In view of the afore-stated benefits to Nigeria, it is our position that the vision, mission, mandate, operations, and activities of the Agency will be better served if the Code of Conduct is retained in the Constitution.  What is required is the strengthening of the Code of Conduct Bureau in the areas of legislation that will ensure tougher sanctions, and, better and  independent funding to enable it cope  with the increasingly sophisticated dimension of  corrupt practices in the country.

We therefore urge this August Committee to uphold our most respectful and humble views for the pursuit of transparency, accountability and good governance in our country. set up for a specific purpose, (S.80 (i), revenues

•Dr.  Ademola Adebo, Federal Commissioner, Code Of Conduct Bureau, South-west zone, presented the position paper at the South -west zonal sitting of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution

Tags: Bureau, CODE OF CONDUCT, Featured, Nigeria, Politics

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