The Senate Tuesday clarified its position on the proposed amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act as it said under no circumstances can the amendment affect the on-going case of its president, Bukola Saraki, before the tribunal.
In a statement by Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi, the Senate stated that many of the comments on the proposed amendments were made by those who have neither read the bill nor understood the principles behind it.
Sabi said since Saraki’s case commenced in 2015, any amendment of the law in 2016 cannot retroactively affect an on-going case. He added that the proposed amendment would still take a minimum of six months given the long process that lawmaking requires.
According to him, this process include committee hearing, public hearing, report back to Senate committee of the whole, the concurrence in the House of Representatives and, assent by the President as the final stage.
“There is no way we will even complete the process of finally effecting the amendments before the completion of the Saraki case. So those who read selfish or ulterior motives to this ordinary legislative activity are either mischievous or ignorant of legislative procedures,” he stated.
Sabi added that the sole aim of the amendment was to give effect to the right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 constitution and the recent pronouncements of the Supreme Court.
“The amendment only affects section 3 and paragraph 17 of the Third Schedule of the current law. The sub-sections in Section 3 were re-arranged in such a way that it will reflect elegance in legal drafting.
“Also, the proviso in Sub-section 3 (d) was removed since it has also been removed in the constitution. To give fair hearing to the defendants in cases involving the bureau, sub-sections 3 (c) was enlarged to ensure that the person concerned was invited to state his own case, after which the CCB can still refer the matter to the tribunal for trial. This eliminates the constant complaint that a defendant was not given the opportunity to make explanation on the inconsistencies alleged to have been found in his Asset Declaration form. This is bringing the law in compliance with the judicial principle of Audi Alterem Partem (Hear from both sides to a case before taking a decision).
“The proposed deletion of Paragraph 17 in the Third Schedule of the law is to ensure that the court does not assume a procedure for which the drafters of the law and the law makers did not intend. The Penal and Criminal Codes mentioned in the Paragraph are no longer relevant. The CCT was not created to be a court with criminal jurisdiction and that is why the law provides for the defendant to be referred to another court if criminal issues emanates from any matter.
“We have found this amendment necessary so as to cure the inconsistencies and mischief arising from the operation and interpretations of the present law. Unfortunately, this ordinary act of legislation has been caught in a conspiracy theory beyond the wildest imagination of lawmakers,” he said.
The Senate spokesman therefore urged all members of the public to always seek to have full information about anything that goes on in the Senate before making comments or seeking to condemn the legislative institution.
He also invited all interested members of the public to make submissions to the National Assembly now or attend the public hearing, which would be duly announced.