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Thursday, April 14

Division in senate over amendment of CCB Act

Division in senate over amendment of CCB Act

Some senators staged a walkout on Thursday to protest a bill seeking to amend the act establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and its tribunal.

The senators expressed dissatisfaction with the bill, which passed second reading, saying the proposed amendments were not in the interest of Nigerians.

Solomon Olamilekan (APC, Lagos west), one of the lawmakers opposed to it, said though the majority will have its way, he decided to leave the senate chamber to prove that he is against the bill.

Leading a debate on the bill, which was read for the first time on Tuesday, Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta north), sponsor of the bill, said the amendment would redraft section 3(d) of the act.

Nwaoboshi said the procedural codes that were being employed by the bureau’s 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,” he argued.

“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.”

Most senators, who contributed to the debate, supported the amendment of the act.

Dino Melaye (APC Kogi west), said the amendment was very apt as it had become clear that the CCT was delving into criminal trials.

“Section 3b 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.

“After investigation by the bureau, 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 positions, what happens?”

Melaye urged all senators to support the amendment, emphasising that it was justified.

Other senators who made their contributions in support of the bill include Jubrin Barau (APC Kano north), Sam Anyanwu (PDP Imo east) and the minority whip, Biodun Olujimi.

Olujimi 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.”

However, Yahaya Abdulahi (APC-Kebbi north) while supporting the amendment, expressed reservations over the timing in view of ongoing trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki, at the CCT.

He said though the amendment was apt, the perception of Nigerians, especially with regard to the timing should be taken into consideration.

“What I am against is the timing; we must be wary about public perception about the position of the senate,” he said.

“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.”

In his remarks, Ike Ekweremadu,  deputy president of the senate, who presided over the session, said the amendment had nothing to do with the trial of the senate president at the CCT.

He said Saraki’s trial had already started before the amendment bill was introduced, adding that they had no link.

“This bill will not affect the proceedings at the Code of Conduct Tribunal,” he said.

“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.”

The lawmakers voted for the passage of the bill for second reading and it was referred to the committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions and its judiciary and human rights counterpart.

The committees were directed to submit their reports in two weeks.

The bill was laid on Tuesday alongside seven other bills among which was the amendment of the administration of criminal justice act.

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