The Senate yesterday concurred with the House of Representatives in the transfer of powers from the President to the National Assembly on matters relating to the control of Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
But the passage of the bill in the Senate was not without heated debate among the Unity Forum and Like Minds lawmakers.
During the consideration of the report which was read for the third time and passed, emotions ran high as lawmakers in favour and those opposed to the amendment spoke on top of their voices.
The bill originated from the House of Representatives. It was passed in the House in May, 2016 and referred to the Senate for concurrence.
It was first introduced in the Senate in April, 2016 by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and was abruptly withdrawn, following massive public outcry that the bill was meant to weaken the powers of the CCB and CCT.
The passage of the bill yesterday followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions which did “critical examination of the bill preparatory to concurrence of the Senate.”
Chairman of the committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said the political situation of the time when the bill was first introduced in the Senate was not conducive for its continued processing hence, it was suspended.
Anyanwu listed objectives of the bill to include, to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap. C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 by Altering the tenure of the office of the Chairman and Members of the Bureau; Amend entry age of the Chairman and Members of the Bureau; Relocating the power to exercise authority over the Bureau from Mr. President to the National Assembly, Extending power of the Attorney-General of the Federation to prosecute to private legal practitioners to enable the Bureau prosecute its cases; and Making certain provisions clearer and more elaborate.
Section 1(2)(b) which sought to reduce the entry age of the Chairman and members of the Bureau from 50 years to 30 years was rejected by the Senate.
The Upper Chamber therefore retained 50 years as the entry age of the Chairman and members of the bureau. Section 1(4) which sought to reduce the tenure of the chairman and members from serving until they are 70 to a term of five years subject to renewal for one further term only, making a total of 10 years in all was carried.
The Senate resolved that “Section 18(1)(2) under “Exemption” are amended by substituting ‘President’ with the ‘National Assembly’ and to substitute in sub-section 1 ‘him’ with ‘it’.”
With the amendment, the National Assembly will now perform the function in Section 18 (2) instead of the President, which implies that the National Assembly will determine those to appear before the CCT.
Those who spoke against the bill were members of the Unity Forum.
Senator Yahaya Abdullahi said: “To remove a president who has equally been elected by the country is wrong. You cannot reprobate and appropriate the substitution of the president to the National Assembly. We can hold the president responsible. We are the only institution that can even remove the president in this country under the Constitution. So, the president is under our oversight. I think we have taken this thing too far. Let us be dispassionate about this matter.”
A prominent member of Unity Forum, Senator Ahmed Lawan 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 do not have to tarry to pass it.
Attempts by Senate Leader Ali Ndume to prevail on his colleagues to suspend the consideration and passage of the bill, proved abortive.