Some anti-corruption crusaders have urged Nigerians to reject the bill passed by the Senate to whittle down the power of the Chairman of ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye.
They also urged President Bola Tinubu to withhold assent on the amended bill.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the senate had on June 4, passed a bill to amend the law establishing the ICPC, which steeply cuts down on the power of the commission’s chairperson.
Speaking in separate interviews, with NAN, they posited that signing the bill into law would undermine the war against corruption in the country.
An anti-corruption crusader, and former Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. Prof Sadiq Radda, said that passage of the bill was an issue of corruption fighting back
“My take is that Nigeria should reject it; it is corruption fighting back, most of these legislators are not happy with ICPC because it is doing an excellent job.
“The implication is that ICPC cannot perform as it is performing and Nigerians should know that is very dangerous.
“It is our duty as academics, anti-corruption agencies, as media to help anti-corruption agencies to be very strong. “
Radda, from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University Kano, said that instead of whittling down the power, efforts should be made to strengthen the office of the chairman to be independent and vibrant
“We have a problem. So we should reject what the National Assembly is doing. We should give protection to all anti-corruption agencies because they are doing a wonderful job,” he said.
Similarly, Prof. Sola Akinrinade, former Vice Chancellor of Osun State University, faulted the procedure of the bill and said that it would not serve a good purpose in the anti-corruption war.
“The only thing I will say is that they did not comply with all the normal processes, there was no public hearing, and when you are doing that kind of amendment there should be a public hearing.
“It doesn’t serve any purpose if you whittle down the power of anti-corruption agencies, particularly the chairperson because they are doing so much risky work.
“What purpose does it serve if we whittle down the power of the ICPC chair; we are actually not helping the fight against corruption
“And, it sends the wrong signal to the international community on the importance attached to the anti-corruption agencies. Instead of strengthening them; we are reducing their power to fight corruption.
“What message does that send to the international community? We need to watch out and guard against such so that we don’t end up shooting ourselves on the foot
“What I would suggest is that when it gets to the president, he should refer it to the Ministry of Justice which will take a holistic look at what is being recommended, whether it serves the purpose of its creation.”
Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive of CODE, said that ”it would be a shame to water down the powers of the chairman, what we need is an institutional framework to strengthen the operation of the ICPC in the fight against corruption.
“If the lawmakers’ hands are clean they have no reason to be afraid of the operation of the ICPC, the commission has been doing a great job under the present leadership.
“If it has been passed, I call on Mr President to withhold assent to the bill, ” he said
A constitutional lawyer, Adegbite Adeniyi, however, said that the amendment has its positive sides.
”For instance, it will encourage and engender robust discussions by the commission before sensitive and far-reaching decisions are taken. This will prevent or at least reduce hasty and or arbitrary use of power by the chairman.”
He, however, posited that this may slow down the speed of actions expected as the chairman needs consultation with the board of the Commission before taking some sensitive decisions.
He also expressed reservation about the Bill, especially the provision of the new Section 22(3) which alters the seven years jail term and a fine of one million naira hitherto specified for bribery or official corruption.
The section also recommends a lesser fine of five hundred thousand naira without the terms of imprisonment for public officials who inflate prices or the cost of contracts during procurement processes.
He said that the details of the amendment were still sketchy and it might be too early to fully and impartially critique the same.
“ I think the speculation about “whittling” down the powers of the chairman of the Commission is being fueled by the mutual suspicion that exists between the members of parliament and the anti-graft agency,” he said. NAN