Democracy-advocate Femi Falana has advised the Ethics Committee of the Senate to withdraw its illegal summons on the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman. On Tuesday, the committee asked the chairman to appear before it on Thursday despite knowing he is supposed to be seating at the tribunal on that day in trial over Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Mr. Falana said in a public statement it was confirmedthat the leadership of the Senate has resolved to frustrate the trial of Mr. Saraki, noting that only on Monday, the Tribunal ruled that the case would be conducted daily under the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 until concluded.
In a swift but contemptuous reaction to the ruling, he said, the Ethics Committee purportedly summoned the Tribunal Chairman to testify in respect of a petition alleging corrupt practices against him.
“Instead of exposing the Nigerian people to further undeserved embarrassment over the Saraki case the Senate is enjoined to enhance the fight against corruption by passing the Whistle Blowers Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Witness Protection Bill which were passed by the 7th National Assembly but were not signed into law by former President GoodluckJonathan,” Mr. Falana said.
He advised that for the Nigerian people to take the war against corruption seriously, the members of the legislative and executive arms of Government ought to be prepared to demonstrate leadership by example, adding that given the majority of States are now owing arrears of salaries, the legislators should be prepared to make a sacrifice by reducing their fat salaries and jumbo allowances.
He pointed out that the Ethics Committee of the Senate lacks the power to summon the Tribunal Chairman to testify in respect of a criminal investigation, especially given that the allegation being examined by the committee is the subject matter of a pending criminal case at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Abuja.
Earlier on Tuesday, 28 civil society organizations promoting justice and good governance in Nigeria called on President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent to a bill being hurried through the Senate to amend the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the CCT, should it be passed.
They stressed that the underhand moves in the Senate are aimed at whittling down the powers of the agencies with a view to helping Senate President Bukola Sarakiescape justice.
On Monday, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)alsowarned the Senate to return the Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs they are currently buying and distributing among themselves, or be prepared to meet the Nigerian people in the streets.
On Sunday, the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper had reported that the Senate dubiously purchased each of the cars for N35.1 million, over twice the showroom price in Nigeria, where the 2016 model sells for N17 million.
Full text of the statement by Mr. Falana:
The Iillegal summons on Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman
We have confirmed that the leadership of the Senate has resolved to frustrate the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal Holden at Abuja. Yesterday, the Tribunal ruled that the case would be conducted day by day until it is concluded under the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. In a swift but contemptuous reaction to the ruling, the Ethics Committee of the Senate has purportedly summoned the Tribunal Chairman to appear before it on Thursday, December 20, 2016. The Judge is required to testify before the Senate Committee in respect of a petition alleging corrupt practices against him.
It is pertinent to point out that the Ethics Committee of the Senate lacks the power to summon the Tribunal Chairman to testify in respect of a criminal investigation. More so that the allegation being examined by the Ethics Committee of the Senate is the subject matter of a pending criminal case at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Abuja. Following the allegation that the Personal Assistant to the Tribunal Chairman allegedly received a bribe from a suspect on behalf of his master the matter was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. At the end of the investigation, the Tribunal Chairman was exonerated while his Personal Assistant was indicted. Consequently, the suspect has since been charged to court. Since the case has not been concluded or terminated it is the height of contempt on the part of the Senate or any of its Committee to decide to conduct another trial on the same subject matter.
However, by virtue of Sections 88 (1) & (2) of the 1999 Constitution the National Assembly is empowered to conduct an inquiry for the purpose of enabling it to- “(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and (b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.”