Despite the ongoing trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on a thirteen count charge bordering on false asset declaration, the Senate in the outgoing week passed for second reading an amendment Bill seeking to reduce the powers of the Code of Conduct Bureau /Tribunal.
The Nigeria Labour Congress NLC has joined in the public outcry against the proposed amendment.
The following is a full text of a statement released by NLC on the issue.
A Dangerous Amendment
In the past one week, the Senate initiated a process for the amendment of the Act establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). It cited as reasons for the amendment, the need to give every public officer (appearing before the tribunal) a fair hearing, justice and equity ( in line with the provisions of Section 36 [a] of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the need to remove from political control, the two bodies which now play a critical role in the administration of criminal justice system.
In furtherance of its objective, the Senate fast-tracked the process of this amendment via two readings (first and second) within 48 hours. It has also set in motion the process for removing the jurisdictional powers of CCT on criminal matters via the amendment of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act.
In consideration of the fact that sometimes in most climes, corruption trials are triggered by reasons other than corruption, it makes a lot of sense to create legislations that guarantee fair trial and justice for the accused. Secondly, legislative amendments are part of the constitutional functions or duties of the National Assembly.
However, we at the Nigeria Labour Congress hold the view that the noble intention of the Senate notwithstanding, the timing is suspect and fraught with danger. It is quite intriguing that it took the trial of the Senate President for the Senate to discover these flaws in the law(s). Putting it bluntly, in spite of the spirited defences by the Deputy Senate President to the contrary , not a few believe that this legislative move is a desperate attempt to scuttle the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, at CCT.
On our part, we do not think the privileges of the Senate President extend to exemptions from civil or criminal trials. At the moment, only the President and his Vice, the Governor and his Deputy enjoy this rare privilege. Thus, what the Senate is trying to do is no more than a legislative ambush. We need not remind the Senate that we are all equal or ought to be equal before the law, in spite of our stations in life. We similarly believe that the fight against corruption should be total and not selective. If this amendment therefore is allowed to scale through, it would have set a dangerous precedent.
Accordingly, the Senate would do well to listen to one of their own, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi of APC, representing Kebbi North. Timing is of essence here.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni