…scales through second reading 

By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja 

House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill seeking the removal of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT from the control of the Executive arm of government to the Judiciary. 

Essentially, the bill is seeking the alteration of the 1999 constitution to ultimately make provision for the removal of the Tribunal. 

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Titled “A Bill for an Act to Amen the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Establish the Code of Conduct Tribunal as a Superior Court Created by the Constitution”, the piece of legislation is sponsored by Hon. Solomon Bob who represents Abua/Odual and Ahoada East federal constituency of Rivers State. 

Read read on September 17, 2020, the bill proposes to amend principally sections 6, 84, 240, 243, 254, 294, 295 and 316 of the constitution among others that deal with superior courts of record and incorporate the Code of Conduct Tribunal among them.  

Leading the debate at Thursday plenary, Bob said that under a presidential democracy, one arm of government cannot approbate and reprobate powers at the same time.  

He said that there was need to remove CCT from the control of the executive and place it under the supervision of the judiciary to where it properly belonged. 

He said: “It is trite that in a presidential democracy such as ours, the three arms of government, viz – the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are distinct and separate in functions, powers and composition. This distinct separation of powers is intended to secure the independence of each arm and for each to act as a check on the exercise of power by the other, which ultimately enhances the effective discharge of their respective constitutional responsibilities.  

“It is not, therefore, by accident that the constitution specifically sets out the powers of each of the three arms as spelt out in sections 4, 5 & 6 for the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary respectively.  

“The Code of Conduct Tribunal – the focal point of this Bill – is undoubtedly a judicial body created by paragraph 15 of the 5th schedule to the constitution and section 20 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. It is a statutory body saddled with the responsibility of trying offences under the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.  

“However, it is absurd and indeed confounding that a judicial tribunal clothed with enormous powers to sanction public officers found guilty of violating the Code of Conduct Act, including the power to order forfeiture and bar offenders from holding public office, is placed under the Executive rather than the Judiciary, an arm where it rightly belongs.  

“The failure to situate the Tribunal under the judicial arm of government thus runs contrary to the principle and practice of separation of powers in a Presidential democracy such as we are professedly practicing. 
 

“Furthermore, the offices of the chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal are clearly omitted in the judicial oath contained in the 7th schedule to the constitution. 

“Giving effect to this amendment will, therefore, make members of the Tribunal judicial officers with the attendant protection and privileges which that will afford, besides securing the funding of the Tribunal as its funding will be charged on the consolidated revenue of the federation and released directly to the head as statutory transfers. This will in turn immune them substantially from the manipulation or control of the Executive.  

“Under a presidential democracy, one single arm of government ought not exercise executive and judicial powers such as is the case presently. The horrifying consequences or dangers of placing the Tribunal under the Executive as it is today are clear for us all to see. Its independence is non-existent and its instrumentalization by the executive as a weapon against the legislature and the judiciary is evident and undeniable.  This is a clear negation of the noble objectives for setting up the tribunal and, more importantly, a violation of the hallowed doctrine of separation of powers.” 

Recalling the trial of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Hon. Bob said the unhealthy development that led to the departure of former head of judiciary in Nigeria. 

“Our experience several years back is that the executive has intrumentalized it as a weapon against the judiciary. You saw what happened to Onneghen. It was a most unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional removal. You saw what happened to Saraki and and Ekweremadu, how they were hounded all over the place. It’s has become a tool in the hands of the executive. They have instrumentalized it for a purpose other than what it was created for. So, it’s about time we kept it where it’s supposed to be”, he told Vanguard. 

The bill when subjected to a voice vote received overwhelming support of the House and was therefore adopted for second reading. 

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