The National Assembly yesterday transferred the power of the president to control the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to itself.
At the conclusion of work on the bill to amend the CCB and CCT law, the legislature successfully altered Section 18 (2) to enable it to confer additional powers on the CCB instead of the president.
The bill which was passed yesterday stopped the president from enjoying the powers of exempting public officers from investigation and trial and gave such powers to the National Assembly. Section 18 (1) of the existing Act reads: “The president may by order exempt any cadre of public officers from the provisions of this Act if it appears to him that their position in the public service is below the rank which he considers appropriate for the application of those provisions.”
Section 18 (2) of the existing Act provides that “The president may by order confer on the bureau such additional powers as may appear to him to be necessary to enable it to discharge more effectively the functions conferred upon it under this Act.”
The bill was initiated and first passed by the House of Representatives which transmitted it to the Senate for concurrence in May 2016.
With the concurrence of the Senate with the House of Representatives yesterday, the bill will be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
Also yesterday, the Senate agreed with the House of Representatives that the appointment of the chairman of the CCB be based on tenure of two terms of five years each. The bill reduces the tenure of the chairman of the CCB and all members from serving until they attain 70 years to a term of five years subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
“The chairman and members shall serve for a term of five years subject to renewal for one further term,” the bill stated. Section 20 (4) has made it mandatory that the appointment of the chairman and members of the CCT be subjected to the confirmation of the Senate.
Another significant amendment effected to the CCT/CCB Act is to make it compulsory for any case of breach or non-compliance to be brought to the notice of the person concerned to enable him to make a written admission of such breach or non-compliance and where such is done, there shall be no reference to the tribunal.
But the passage of the bill witnessed an exchange of unpleasant words on the floor of the upper chamber as some of the more sensitive clauses were being considered. Many senators resorted to the use of un-parliamentary words.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session had to intervene to restore peace. He cautioned Ahmed Lawan against describing the amendment of the bill as self-serving.
Ekweremadu said: “For the purposes of the public, I think we need to put this in proper perspective. This bill came as a House bill and like other House bills we concurred. But in reference to this we decided to send it to the committee so that they can have another look at it, we would have passed it that same day but we sent it to the committee and it came up this morning. The question was put as to whether we should consider it and the answer was yes. So, we didn’t just consider it because we wanted to consider it, the question was properly put whether we should go to the committee of the whole to consider it and everybody said yes.
“Now we are taking it clause by clause, but we have not jumped to any particular clause. Sometimes we take two or three clauses but here, because of the sensitive nature of this bill, we are taking it clause by clause and we are even bending over backwards to reconsider issues. So it will be unfair to us to accuse ourselves here of being unnecessarily hasty. That is not fair to this Senate.”
Lawan (APC, Yobe North) had said: “The Senate is a moderator on legislation. This bill emanated from the House of Representatives and our colleagues there passed it. I agree totally with the submissions of some of our colleagues here that we don’t have to tarry to pass it. We will be doing ourselves and this National Assembly a better service if we step down this thing and move on to some other things that will make this a better bill only when we convince ourselves that what we are trying to do is not for our sake.”