Apparently to stop the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) from being used to score political points, the Senate has initiated moves to remove the organisations from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The quest is being pursued by the lawmakers through a bill captioned: “Code of Conduct Act CAP, C15 LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (SB248). The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaboshi (PDP Delta North), passed its first reading on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.
There are speculations that the proposed law is designed to save incumbent Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki from his ongoing trial at the CCT for alleged false declaration of assets.
In an interview with the sponsor of the bill on its import, Nwaboshi simply said that the Bill was meant to save Nigerians from overzealous politicians.
According to him, “the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Code of Conduct Bureau, which are now under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) who is a politician, can be used against political opponents or perceived political enemies.”
“He (SGF) oversees the CCB and the CCT and they report to his office. So, since the Supreme Court Justices in their judgment have said that they (CCT and CCB) are a court of some sort, they must be seen to be neutral in nature and not to report to a politician,” Senator Nwaboshi said.
He explained that the intention of the bill is to make the agencies completely neutral by either moving them to the judiciary or to the National Assembly that has the power to remove the chairman and members of the tribunal.
Nwaboshi continued: “They should not be reporting to a politician and being overseen by a politician; the CCT and CCB should be seen as an independent body, doing their jobs and we will give them what they are entitled to. “Otherwise, one day, like we are seeing now, if you are an enemy to the SGF he will use the CCB to put you in trouble and charge you there like we are seeing now.”
The lawmaker said that the intent of the bill was not informed by what is happening to Saraki rather “it is because the legislature wants to save Nigerians. We want Nigerians to see; you cannot put a quasi-judicial arm under the control of the SGF who is a politician, appointed by the President and doing a political job.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, has directed Justice Abdul Kafarati who is sitting in Abuja, to deliver judgment in a suit involving Saraki.
Saraki, who is being tried over alleged false assets declaration at the CCT, had dragged the Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar and others before the Federal High Court.
In the suit, Saraki is contending that his trial before the CCT, as currently constituted, was a violation of his rights and that there was no way he could get justice.
Having taken arguments from the counsel to the parties in the case, Justice Kafarati had slated judgment for March 22 but when the parties arrived in the court, he changed his mind at the last minute and informed them that he was withdrawing from the case and returning the case file to Justice Auta for re-assignment to another judge.
Justice Kafarati predicated his decision on libelous publications by some online media, which he (the judge) said had presented him in bad light and portrayed him as a compromised judge.
On March 23, Saraki’s lawyer, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, wrote Justice Auta, demanding that he prevailed on Justice Kafarati to deliver his withheld decision, no matter who benefits from it.
Oluyede had said: “It is our argument in the suit that the Code of Conduct Tribunal cannot act independently the way it is currently constituted because we believe it’s Chairman, Danladi Umar, who is currently under investigation by the EFCC, cannot be independent in deciding a case being prosecuted before him by the EFCC.”
The AUTHORITY learnt that Justice Auta’s decision was based on the fact that none of the parties in the suit complained about the conduct of Justice Kafarati and that the judge cannot disqualify himself from further handling the case based on mere allegations in the media.