Why pro-Saraki senators should forfeit their pay, by Femi Falana
HUMAN rights lawyer and anti-corruption crusader, Femi Falana (SAN), has said senators who abandoned their duties in the Senate to accompany the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) were guilty of indolence and absenteeism and should consequently be made to face the appropriate penalties.
Falana also said calls for Dr Saraki to step aside as the Senate President while his trial continues is in order, insisting that that is in consonance with the Public Service Rules.
The senior lawyer said the closure of the Senate to enable pro-Saraki senators attend proceedings at the tribunal and at other courts was illegal and should be utterly condemned by all patriots in the country.
Speaking in Lagos during the investiture of Mr. Dare Oseni as the 2015/2016 President of the International Association of Lions Club, Falana further expressed the fear that the attitude of the Senate, especially those senators accompanying Saraki to the tribunal tended to undermine the anti-corruption campaign of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“In a rare display of impunity the Senate President has caused the Senate to adjourn sittings to allow members to show solidarity with him whenever his case is fixed for hearing at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Apart from questioning the political will of the Buhari Administration to fight corruption and impunity in the country the Senate has continued to assault our collective national morality.”
The anti-corruption crusader was therefore of the view that since the pro-Saraki senators had chosen to abandon their official engagements, they should be made to forfeit their earnings for that period accordingly.
“Since the policy of “no work no pay” is applicable in the federal public service, the senators who abandon their constitutional duties to attend court proceedings are not entitled to be paid or be remunerated for wanton indolence in the circumstance. If the morally despicable behaviour is not halted the distinguished senators may soon resolve to appear in the various courts in the country in solidarity with other members who are facing terrorism and corruption charges. After all, what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander.”
“As the Senate president Dr, Bukola is required to preside over the affairs of the legislative house in the discharge of its constitutional duty of making laws for the country. Attendance of court sittings in solidarity with any criminal suspect is certainly not part of the constitutional responsibilities of the Senate. By insisting on the suspension of Senate sittings to enable him to attend court sittings in the company of fellow senators, the Senate President has violated paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which states that “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”
The West African Bar Association (WABA) former president based his position that the Senate president must step aside while his trial at the CCT continues on the provision of the Federal Government Public Service Rules which stipulates that when a public officer is charged to court for criminal offence, the officer shall cease to report for duty pending the conclusion of his case. In addition the concerned officer shall be placed on half pay for the whole period of the trial.
The anti-graft campaigner further said that, the affected officer would be entitled to collecting his or her full entitlements if at the conclusion of the case he or she triumphed.
“Furthermore, contrary to the misleading impression that public officers accused of corruption cannot be asked to step aside and clear their names paragraph 303404 of the Federal Government Public Service Rules (Corrected Version 2008) stipulates that when a public officer is charged to court with a criminal offence he/she shall be interdicted and cease to report for duty until the determination of the case.
“During the period of interdiction the public officer concerned shall be entitled to 50% of his/her entitlements provided that if he/she is discharged or acquitted the officer shall be immediately reinstated and receive his/her full entitlements which have been denied him/her during the period of interdiction.
“Paragraph 030406 of the Rules further provides that where the officer has not been charged to court he/she may be suspended pending investigation into the allegation of malfesance or misconduct against him/her.
He said the Supreme Court had made it very clear that, that such interdiction did not violate the fundamental rights of the affected officer.
“It has been held by the Supreme Court in a number of decided cases that such interdiction or suspension does not violate the fundamental rights of the officers involved. Therefore, it is misleading on the part of lawyers to insist that public officers who cannot explain their sources of wealth are presumed innocent until the contrary is established against them by a court of competent jurisdiction.
He frowned at the continued move by Saraki to halt his trial at the tribunal, stressing that that ran contrary to the new Administration of Criminal Justice operational in the country presently.
He recalled that Saraki was a member of the Seventh Senate which amended the old document to reflect the present provision.
Incidentally, the senator was a member of the 7th session of the National Assembly which enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. Section 306 thereof provides that “An application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before the court shall not be entertained.” For the avoidance of doubt, section 396 (2) of the Act further provides that “After the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge or the information at any time before judgment provided that such objection shall only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling thereon made at the time of delivery of judgment.”