*Senate’s Amendment of ICPC Act Against UN, AU Conventions – Rep
The amendment of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 which established the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offices Commission (ICPC) by the Senate has hit a dead end.
A member of the House of Representatives has stated that the amendment of the ICPC Act was against the United Nations and African Union Conventions which the country is a signatory.
The Senate had on May 30, in the “Committee of the Whole”, passed the report of its Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes which reviewed 70 clauses seeking to amend the Principal Act of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The report, which was presented by the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Abdu Kwari, whittled down the powers of the ICPC Chairman by rendering the Commission ineffective and creating conflict and interference by board members which the amendment substituted as ‘Commissioners’ in the administration and operations activities of the anti-graft agency.
The amended ICPC bill by the Senate failed to get the concurrent of the Ninth House of Representatives before the latter’s valedictory session and shut down of the green chamber on Wednesday.
This medium gathered that the House of Representatives failed to list the amended ICPC Bill forwarded by the Senate to it on its Order Paper despite intense pressure mounted by some senators and members of the board of ICPC.
A member of the 9th House of Representatives told our correspondent that the lower chamber could not take the amended bill due to time limitation and its inability to carry out rigorous legislative processes of the clauses of the Act, in addition to holding a public hearing.
The source further confirmed that there were some deficiencies in the amended bill passed by the Senate which go against the anti-corruption conventions which Nigeria is a signatory.
He said, “What do we achieve in hurriedly passing the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000? It goes against some anti-corruption conventions like the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on Prevention of Corruption which Nigeria is a signatory.
“Specifically, Article 6(2) of UNCAC requires that anti-corruption agencies and bodies have necessary independence to enable them carry out their functions effectively and free from any undue influence and interference.
“We need to be careful in amending the laws establishing these anti-corruption agencies so that we do not suffocate them and make them ineffective and under-performing. The law or any amendment should support the country’s fight against corruption and not weaken it.”
The Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, has expressed deep concern over the amendment of the ICPC Act by the Senate.
Nwankwo in a statement said, “PLAC is concerned that in the last days of the National Assembly and just a few days to the completion of its constitutionally prescribed date of dissolution, bills that may fall below legislative standards are being considered for passage under the legislative practice of ‘concurrence’.
“PLAC recognises that there are several outstanding bills that the 9th National Assembly should have taken seriously and passed before winding down. This includes the Electoral Offences Commission bill, which has undergone rigorous legislative processes and scrutiny in both the Senate and House of Representatives, but which the 9th National Assembly still failed to pass.”
The civil society organization charged the National Assembly not to take further action on the amendment of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
He added, “PLAC is calling on the two chambers of the National Assembly to immediately refrain from further passage or concurrence to bills in these last days of legislative sitting and instead, concentrate on their valedictory activities and ceremonies marking the dissolution of the 9th National Assembly.
“As the 10th National Assembly sets to be inaugurated in the coming days, PLAC calls on incoming legislators to put on the front burner the passage of the Electoral Offences Commission bill. PLAC will work in collaboration with the National Assembly and other civil society groups to identify priority bills for early passage by the incoming 10th National Assembly.”
The Senate had passed the ICPC Act amendment without holding a public hearing as it only requested comments of a few selected civil society organizations on some clauses which were not contentious like the whittling down of the powers of the ICPC Chairman and penalty for offences.
One of the main contentious amendments was Section 4(2) of the Principal Act which states that the Chairman and any four members of the board of the Commission shall constitute a quorum for meetings. The Senate amended the existing subsection (2) for a new subsection (2).
The new subsection (2) states that the quorum for meetings shall be ‘any five members’ and the five members in attendance shall appoint a Chairman to preside over the board meetings. This poses threats to the stability of government agencies and the realization of their mandates. It implies that “any five members” of the board can meet and take far reaching decisions for the Commission, including removing a sitting Chairman appointed by the President for the agency and even making a decision on whether an investigation or operation should commence, continue or terminate with or without the Chairman’s input.
The upper chamber further amended Section 7 of the Principal Act on the issuance of administrative orders by the Chairman of the Commission called “Standing Orders”.
Section 7 (1) of the Principal Act states, “The Chairman may issue administrative orders to be called “standing orders”, which shall conform with the provisions of the general control, training, duties and responsibilities of officers of the commission and for such other matters as may be necessary or expedient for the good administration of the Commission and to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the Commission.
The Senate amended Section 7(1) of the Principal Act by substituting the word ‘Chairman’ for the word ‘Commission’.
According to the Amended Bill of the Senate, the senators also passed the amendments of Sections 3(5), 3(6), 3(7), 3(8), 3(9) and 3(10) of the Principal Act by substituting the word ‘members of the board’ with the word ‘commissioners’. This effectively turns members of the Commission appointed by the President for policy making into operatives with latitude to interfere with operational matters.
A new subsection 3(11) was created by the Senate recognizing offices for the Commissioners of the Commission. The new subsection 3(11) states as follows, “The Commissioners of the Commission shall have the following offices: Commissioner (Investigative Matters), Commissioner (Legal Matters), Commissioner (Prevention, Systems Review and Financial Intelligence), Commissioner (Asset Recovery and Management), Commissioner (Anti-Corruption Education and Mobilization), Commissioner, (Forensics and Emerging Technologies), Zonal Commissioner, North East, Zonal Commissioner, North Central, Zonal Commissioner, North West, Zonal Commissioner, South East, Zonal Commissioner, South South, and Zonal Commissioner, South West.