Nigeria’s Fight Against Corruption Under Threat As Senate Amends ICPC Act To Whittle Down Powers Of Commission’s Chairman
The Senate has whittled down the powers of the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and the Commission following the amendment of the ICPC Act 2000, THE WHISTLER can report.
The actions of the Senate, according to findings are not unconnected with the prevention of corruption through the constituency projects.
Constituency projects are meant to extend the dividends of democratic governance to the various constituencies of the federal legislators with a view to spurring grassroots development.
The legislators are the sponsors of constituency projects in Nigeria.
Under the constituency and executive projects tracking initiative which is in its fifth stage, it was gathered that the ICPC has tracked over 3,000 projects valued at about N400bn.
The Commission, it was further learnt, had forced over 500 contractors to return to project sites to complete abandoned projects valued at over N45bn.
THE WHISTLER understands that the Senate in Sections 3(5), 3(6), 3(7), 3(8), 3(9) and 3(10) of the Principal Act amended the Act by substituting the word ‘board members’ with the word ‘commissioners’.
It was further gathered that the upper chamber further amended Section 3 of the Principal Act by inserting a new subsection 3(11) creating offices for the Commissioners of the Commission.
The new subsection 3(11) states as follows, “The Commissioners of the Commission shall have the following offices:
i. Commissioner (Investigative Matters),
ii. Commissioner (Legal Matters),
iii Commissioner (Prevention, Systems Review and Financial Intelligence),
iv Commissioner (Asset Recovery and Management),
v Commissioner (Anti-Corruption Education and Mobilization),
vi Commissioner, (Forensics and Emerging Technologies),
vi Zonal Commissioner, North East
viii Zonal Commissioner, North Central
ix Zonal Commissioner, North West
x. Zonal Commissioner, South East
xi. Zonal Commissioner, South South
xii. Zonal Commissioner, South West
“Provided always that in assigning responsibilities to the Commissioners, the President shall have regard to their geo-political zones and respective disciplines.”
The implication of the amendment of Section 3 of the Principal Act and the new subsection 3(11), according to findings, is the whittling down of the powers of the Chairman of the Commission unlike other law enforcement agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and Nigeria Customs Service, among others.
Top government officials with knowledge of security operations told THE WHISTLER that the powers of law enforcement agencies cannot be subject to decisions of Committees and political considerations.
It was further learnt that the Senate also amended Section 4(2) of the Principal Act.
While Section 4(2) of the original ICPC Act states that the Chairman and any four board members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum for meetings, the Senate amended the existing subsection (2) for a new subsection (2).
The new subsection (2) states that the quorum for meetings shall be ‘any five board members’ and the five members in attendance shall appoint a Chairman to preside over the meetings.
Sources told THE WHISTLER that the import of this amendment is that ‘any five members’ of the board can meet and take far reaching decisions.
In further attempts at whittling down the powers of the Chairman of the Commission, the Senate also amended Section 7 of the Principal Act on the issuance of administrative orders by the Chairman of the Commission called “standing orders”.
Section 7 (1) of the Principal Act states, “The Chairman may issue administrative orders to be called “standing orders”, which shall conform with the provisions of the general control, training, duties and responsibilities of officers of the commission and for such other matters as may be necessary or expedient for the good administration of the Commission and to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the Commission.
The Senate amended Section 7(1) of the Principal Act by substituting the word ‘Chairman’ for the word ‘Commission’.
The legislators also whittled down the punishment of seven years for offering and accepting gratifications in Sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Principal Act.
The amendments posed serious threat to the fight against corruption in the country which the Commission has doggedly fought for over two decades.
The amendments, it was further gathered have grave implications for the Commission and the country in general.
A top government official said, “The Senators are trying to get back at the ICPC Chairman over his unyielding posture with respect to the constituency projects
“Some members of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes were also influenced by some board members in ICPC who have been seeking more powers for the board members unlike what obtains in other anti-corruption agencies and law enforcement agencies.
‘Some board members are trying to get more powers to decide investigations, prosecutions and others rather than what the law says which is the responsibility of the chairman.”
The House of Representatives has not finalised on its review of the ICPC Act 2000.