The National Assembly on Thursday, transferred the power of the President in controlling the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act (CCT) and appropriated same to itself.
The Senate at the conclusion of work on the Bill to amend the CCB and CCT, lawmakers altered section 18 (2) to enable the National Assembly do the conferment of additional powers on the CCB instead of the President.
The Bill that was passed on Thursday stopped the President from enjoying the powers of exempting public officers from investigation and trial. Instead, it gave that power 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” while Section 18(2) of the existing Act provided 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 same to the Senate for coccurrence in May, 2016.
With the concurrence of the Senate with the House of Representatives on Thursday, the Bill will be pushed to the President for assent.
Also, the Senate agreed with the House of Representatives that the appointment of 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 attained 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 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 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 unfriendly exchanges of words on the floor of the Upper Chamber. As some of the more sensitive clauses in the bill were being considered, many lawmakers became betrayed by their emotions resorting to use of unparliamentary languages.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session had to intervene to restore peace. He however cautioned Senator Ahmed Lawal 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 on 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 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 and that is not fair to this Senate. So, please if the Leader wants to change his mind about reconsidering the bill I don’t have problem with it. But we should not create the impression that there is any haste in reconsidering this bill and we have followed the rules to the latter up to this moment.”
Senator Lawan had said tnat “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 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.”
According to him, “If we are affected today because perhaps either one of us or some of us are before the tribunal or something, this is not a permanent situation and when we legislate we legislate for maybe centuries and we legislate dispassionately not for ourselves. Mr chairman, I feel very passionate about this that whatever we feel about any situation that we are in, let’s make sure that that thing doesn’t get into us when we legislate for the sake of our people.”
Other Senators particularly those belonging to the Unity Forum, a group opposed to the emergence of Bukola Saraki’s emergence as Senate President last year supported Sen Lawan
Trouble worsened when the Senate leader, Ali Ndume, attempted to withdraw the Bill because of out pour of emotions. His motion to withdraw it was seconded by the chairman of the Unity Forum, Senator Banabas Germade.
When the question was put forward, the motion was defeated and this did not go down well with the Unity Forum Senators most of whom later gradually left the chamber.
Ndume had also tried to caution against removing the powers of the President that enabled him to control the CCB. But he attracted serious opposition to the extent that he was described as a sectional leader by a Senator from one of the States in the South East.
At a point, Ndume asked the Deputy President of Senate, Ike E kweremadu, who presided over the session to call the law maker to order.
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