The Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal were set up to strengthen the fi ght against graft and entrench transparency among civil servants and public offi ce holders. VIVIAN OKEJEME reports what stakeholders say on the extent to which the agencies have gone in realizing their mandate.
Since the return of democracy to the country in 1999, successive administrations have made the fi ght against corruption its focus. From Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency till date, the need to fi ght corruption has always been re-echoed. Each administration has no doubt tried its best to bring an end or in the least, reduce the impact corruption has on the nation’s economy.
But the hard fact is that the more they try, the more corruption fi ghts back. Need for special courts Some have advocated the establishment of special courts to deal with the menace, while others are of the views that the country has more than enough laws and courts in the country to deal with corruption. Political watchers and stakeholders are of the opinion that for government to fi ght corruption successfully, it needs to look inwards.
Focusing on civil servants According to them, searchlights should be beamed on the civil service, where they believe corruption is massive. It is believed that most civil servants have property all over the country but when they are declaring their assets, they under declare same before the Code of Conduct Bureau. Moreover, they stress that some of the money collected as kick-backs which are products of bribery and corruption, are used in building and purchasing mansions in choice areas.
One absolute way of identifying a corrupt public offi cer or political offi ce holder is the assessment of their assets by their income, as well as matching same with their status and what they claim to own. Th is makes the constitutional prescription of declaration of assets by public offi cials and political offi ce holders absolutely important. Creation of CCB and CCT In view of this, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) were established to deal with corruption in the civil service in the area of declaration of assets.
Th e CCB was established in Nigeria in 1979 during the Second Republic after 13 years of military rule by the founding fathers of the fi rst post-military constitution. Th e 1979 Constitution provided a list of Codes of Conduct for public offi cers. Th e military administration of Murtala / Obasanjo inaugurated a Board before handing over power to the civilian government in July, which failed to make any impact because the National Assembly of the second republic failed to pass the enabling law.
Ten years later in 1989, the Bureau got its legal mandate under the Babangida regime. Th e Code of Conduct provision has since then maintained a permanence of some sort, in the 5th schedule of all constitutions following thereafter; 1989, 1993, 1995 and the current 1999 Scorecard on CCB,CCT’s performance I think the government is not yet serious in its resolve to tackle corruption because you can’t tell me that the CCB have been unable to find one public servant culpable of breach of code of conduct rules. constitution.
Th e Code of Conduct Tribunal on its part is statutory, being a creation of the Constitution. It was established in 1989 and the tribunal is a unique adjudicatory body created to strengthen integrity in public service. Th is integrity should be achieved by enforcing the code of conduct for public offi cials .
Th e seriousness of the provision of the code of conduct for public offi cers is highlighted by the fact that it is incorporated into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) under paragraph 15(4) of the 5th schedule which provides that “the National Assembly may by Law, confer on the Code of Conduct Tribunal such additional powers as may appear to it to be necessary to enable it more eff ectively discharge the functions conferred on it in this schedule”.
In bequeathing additional powers on the tribunal, the National Assembly confers criminal jurisdiction and empowers the Attorney General of Federation to prefer charges against public offi cers who allegedly fl out the code of conduct. Th ere is also a special legislation enacted for this by virtue of Chapter C15 Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, No. 1 of 1989, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, with commencement date of 1st January 1991. Th is is an Act to provide for the establishment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal to deal with complaints of corruption by public servants for the breaches of its provisions.
Th e CCT is expected to play a vital role in the fi ght against corruption as regards public offi cers even though it is not a court in the real sense of it. Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, in a paper titled “Strengthening the Code of Conduct Bureau,//” says the code of conduct for public offi cers is a component of the Nigerian anti-corruption and transparency framework.
Th e SAN further affi rms that, it is possibly the fi rst formal legislation creating off ences and sanctions for offi cial corruption and other acts in breach of the prescribed ethics for public offi cers, adding that its signifi cance is the fact that the code of conduct regime under Nigerian laws are provided for in the Constitution. How eff ective are they? Th e issue and the question begging for answers is how far have these two gone in their role as anti-corruption and transparency frameworks?
According to a lawyer, Badmus Enukwu, they have not been keeping up with their statutory mandates. He expresses that most of the people that stand trial at the CCT are junior civil servants adding that senior civil servants and public servants, who are either elected or appointed, rarely have cases with the bureau and the tribunal.
“Th e question that should be asked at this point is where do public servants make money with which they use in buying exotic cars and houses? Before they get to offi ce, most of them declare few assets but by the time they are leaving offi ce, they become super-rich and most of the time, the CCB does nothing about this. “I think there is active connivance between some bad elements in the CCB and public servants because I keep wondering why no highly placed government offi cial has been successfully prosecuted despite the stupendous wealth they display after leaving offi ce.
“Th ey have to put their foot down in their mandate, unless they are accomplices,” he said. Sharing similar view, another legal practitioner, Charles Animaku Boyepa believes both the CCB and CCT need to be reminded of their roles in the fi ght against corruption, noting that the few public offi cers prosecuted often fi nd their ways out of the case. “Apart from the former Lagos state governor, Bola Tinubu, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former Niger-Delta minister, Godsday Orubebe, no high profi le asset falsifi cation case has been successfully prosecuted by the government. “I think the government is not yet serious in its resolve to tackle corruption because you can’t tell me that the CCB have been unable to fi nd one public servant culpable of breach of code of conduct rules.
“Until we are serious in this country to tackle corruption, we will continue to go round in a circle,” he stated. Also in his view, Barrister Ben Omenka, says the two agencies have not been helpful in the fi ght against the scourge of corruption, maintaining that the restrictions on public offi cials to operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria, including restrictions against acceptance of gifts or benefi ts in kind, restriction on loan, are not in check.
He further notes that alleged corrupt public offi cials’ trials were , in most cases scuttled, delayed and some even discharged on technical grounds, concluding that Nigeria’s expectation in the judicial system for justice is falling by the day.