Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives, in a bold move, has passed 10 amendments to the Act establishing and guiding the operations of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Tribunal (CCT).
A major amendment removes oversight including disciplinary powers over the CCB from the hands of the president of the country, and vests it in the National Assembly.
Another amendment disempowers the CCB from immediately referring a matter to the CCT without giving an accused official a chance to explain any breaches.
The Senate was forced to drop proceedings into proposed amendment of the CCB Act, owing to pressure caused by the ongoing trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the CCT on allegations of false declaration of assets.
The House yesterday passed an amendment to Section 3 which has generated controversy in the trial of Saraki, particularly Section 3 (d) which stipulates that the bureau shall “receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act, and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, shall refer such complaints to the CCT…”
In making an addition to Section 3 by adding paragraph “e”, the amendment provides a chance for public officials to defend allegations of breach, before reference to the CCT.
The additional paragraph read: “Upon complaint(s) of any breach or where it appears to the bureau that there is a breach of the provision or this Act, the person concerned shall be given particulars of such non compliance or breaches to explain before any reference to the tribunal.”
Section 4 (2) of the Act which empowers the President to provide rules and regulations for the Bureau was amended to vest such powers in the National Assembly.
An amendment to Section 18 (2) also disempowers the president from conferring additional powers as may appear necessary to the Bureau to “enable it to discharge more effectively the functions conferred upon it under this Act.”
The amendment vested the powers in Section 18 (2) in the National Assembly and added an additional paragraph 18 (3) which makes failure to comply with sub section 2, a misconduct.
The principal Act of Section 1 (4) which allows the Chairman of the CCB and any member to vacate office upon attainment of the age of 70 was also deleted.
The House in amending Section 24 (2) removed the power of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to institute prosecutions for the offences under the CCB Act, and replaced the office with ‘private legal practitioner.’
The amendment allows the Chairman and members to serve a term of five years subject to renewal for one further term only.
The bill has to go through third reading and concurrence from the Senate before transmission to the president to be signed into law.