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Code of Conduct tribunal’s (2)

By Wahab Shittu   |   28 September 2015   |   10:24 pm  
Osinbajo-4

Osinbajo

Continued from last week
The Code of Conduct Bureau
The Code of Conduct Bureau is established pursuant to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act with aims and objectives which include ensuring “…a high standard of morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability.”

The functions of the Bureau shall be to “receive assets declarations by public officers in accordance with the provisions of this Act; examine the assets declarations and ensure that they comply with the requirements of this Act and of any law for the time being in force; take and retain custody of such assets declarations; and receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by section 20 of this Act in accordance with the provisions of sections 20 to 25 of this Act; provided that where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary.”

The Code of Conduct Tribunal
The Code of Conduct Tribunal is established under the 5th Schedule Part I to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and pursuant to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act referred to above.

There are far-reaching provisions detailing “establishment, staff, tenure, powers to impose punishment, rules of procedure and institution of proceedings, power to issue search warrants including interpretation” of the words used under Part 3 of the Code of Bureau and Tribunal Act. In all of these provisions, it is important to examine the jurisdiction, scope of powers of the Tribunal to impose punishment, reference of cases to the tribunal and court to which proceedings on appeal lies for the decisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Jurisdiction of Code of Conduct Tribunal
The Code of Conduct Tribunal has jurisdiction to adjudicate upon complaints brought before it by the Code of Conduct Tribunal arising from breaches of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for public officers stipulated under the 5th Schedule Part I of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and breaches arising from the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act No. 1 of 1989 with commencement date of 1st Januray 1991.

Prosecutions for all offences are instituted in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Attorney-General of the Federation or such officers in the Federal Ministry of Justice with authority to institute such proceedings by the Attorney-General of the Federation. It is however not clear whether anyone can challenge such delegated powers by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Scope of Powers of Punishment of the Tribunal
Section 23(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act provides: “The punishment which the Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following: (a). Vacation of office or any elective or nominated office, as the case may be; (b). Disqualification from holding any public office (whether elective or not) for a period not exceeding ten years; and (c). Seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property acquired in abuse or corruption of office.”
The tribunal also has power to issue search warrants by virtue of section 25 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

Reference of cases to the Tribunal
Section 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act assigns the responsibility of receiving complaints for breach of the code to the Code of Conduct Bureau and reference of such complaints to the Tribunal is also vested in the Code of Conduct Bureau, where any party makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, it will not be necessary for the Code of Conduct Bureau to make any reference of such complaints to the Tribunal.
“Prosecution of offences shall be instituted in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Attorney-General of the Federation or such officers in the Federal Ministry of Justice as the Attorney-General of the Federation may authorize to do so.”

Private legal practitioners may also obtain a fiat of the Attorney-General to undertake such prosecutions. There is however a caveat to the effect that: “…the question whether any authority has been given in pursuance of this subsection shall not be inquired into by any person.”

Appeals from the Code of Conduct Tribunal
With regard to appeals from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the provision of section 246(1a) of the 1999 Constitution is important as it provides: “.An appeal to the Court of Appeal shall lie as of right from decisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal established in the fifth schedule to this Constitution”.

It follows from the above that only the Court of Appeal has appellate and supervisory jurisdictions over the proceedings of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and not any other court.

Prosecution of offences shall be instituted in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Attorney-General of the Federation or such officers in the Federal Ministry of Justice as the Attorney-General of the Federation may authorize to do so.

Conclusion
In conclusion, there is no doubt that our current legislations on Code of Conduct may need to be strengthened. The focus of any Prospective Legislation on Code of Conduct in the words of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN should address the following areas:
“Conditions for inspection of assets declaration forms of public officers by any Nigerian Citizen Legal Regime for the appointment, promotion, dismissal and general disciplinary control of staff of the Bureau Additional functions of the Bureau in addition to those conferred by the Constitution.

Expansion of the list of public officers prohibited from maintaining foreign accounts Exemption of any cadre of public officers from the provisions of paragraphs 4 & 11 of the Code of Conduct.

Conferring wider powers on the Tribunal to enable it carry out its functions more efficiently Expanding the scope of punishments to be meted by the Tribunal for infraction of the Code of Conduct Enacting rules for the Practice and Procedure of the Tribunal.”

Finally, the jurisprudence in this area is most likely to be enhanced by the judicial pronouncements and outcomes of the ongoing cases in the land now that activities in this area is currently on the rise.

• Shittu is a Lagos based attorney and lecturer, University of Lagos



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