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Why amendment of CCB, CCT acts is necessary, by NBA president, Alegeh

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Austin Alegeh (SAN)

Austin Alegeh (SAN)

The National Assembly recently commenced the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal Acts, but suddenly suspended them due to public outcry over the timing of the amendment which coincided with the trial of the Senate President and the chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki. But in this interview with IBE UWALEKE, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Austin Alegeh (SAN) believes that the amendment is necessary irrespective of the time, as it is odd, according to him, to have a court or tribunal like the CCT, functioning under the presidency or the executive, against the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), arguing that it is a usurpation of the role of the third arm of government, the judiciary. Excerpts:

Do you think the National Assembly has any reason to begin the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Acts when there are more important Bills waiting to be passed?
The right of the National Assembly to amend any law cannot be circumscribed in any way and we believe that the National Assembly must be acting in good fate. The fears that are being expressed are the assumption that the National Assembly is acting in bad faith. I don’t share that sentiment neither do I believe that a body so high up in our national polity will decide to act in bad faith. If there is any reason for the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Acts to be amended, by all means, let them be amended.

After the second reading of the amendments being proposed, then we will be in a position to know whether the amendments will enhance the administration of justice or not. We should not believe that members of the National Assembly would act in a way contrary to the mandate given to them by the people. Don’t forget that whatever Bill passed by the National Assembly will require the assent of Mr. President. There is no law that cannot be amended to make it better if such need arises.

There is a moral question in this particular amendment because of the timing. How do you react to that?
There is no moral question. There is no time limit to amend any law. When we have elections that is the time people see the need to amend the electoral Act. The trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki might have brought out the Acts to the limelight for more people to read them and found out that they need some amendment. CCT, to my mind should be a justice sector establishment. As lawyers we should ask why is it that a court is placed under the executive. Let us not allow diversionary matters to occupy national discuss in this issue.

Should the CCB and CCT be placed under the Presidency?
That is a good question to ask. The question that follows then is what are they? The NBA has proposed that the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) should be under the Ministry of Justice. But why is it under the Ministry of Interior. If the prisons are put under the Ministry of Justice, the ministry should be able to know how to decongest awaiting trial inmates and how many Black Marias are needed to take suspects to court.
If you move prisons to Ministry of Justice, more people will be going to court to decongest awaiting trial inmates.
The question we should begin to ask ourselves is, where should it be located? If a senator, for a wrong reason is proposing correction amendment, why should we fight it? And we now noticed that this is a judicial arm of government, why should it be situated in an executive arm of government? He is not saying they should take it to the legislature rather he is saying it should be taken to the office of the AGF where it belongs.
We should even appreciate the fact that the Senator is making a good point to some extent.

Is NBA making any move towards making this realizable?
We have told the National Assembly that we will not partake in public hearing. After the second reading they should call us for a strategic meeting, where we sit down to have a working session not a public hearing where we have all manner of people to discuss it, which I think I wont do because not everybody understands what CCB entails.

Let us sit down and evaluate all these Acts – Money Laundering, EFCC, ICPC and others and their interrelationship. If ICPC finds you have an infraction where will it take you to? How many prosecutors, investigating officers do CCB has and are they working in accordance to the law?
Let us address the elephant in the house, is the CCB being used now to chase down political opponents.

If you want to work any law, tell me and I will send you lawyers that are verse and capable in that aspect and they will sit down and look at the rules, tell you which areas or sections need to be amended and how they should be done.
We have done it before and we are ready to engage the government if they too are willing to invite us.

If Bukola Saraki invites you to join his legal team, will you oblige him?
No! Because presently I am engaged as the NBA president, you must stand neutral in several areas. That is the supreme sacrifice you must pay. For instance, this year, I did not appear in any governorship election. The reason is simple. If you see me in any governorship election case, what impression will that have on the image of NBA? So when you aspire for offices, you must be able to make sacrifices because there are certain steps you take that may be wrong and the NBA needs to react and so I am the president of the NBA for now.
So anybody who wants to bring a case to me now I will tell the person there are lawyers out there better than me, I will not even recommend a lawyer to the person.


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