Group insists amendment of ICPC law will boost fight against corruption
The Network of Social Workers Against Corruption (N-SWAC) has insisted that the recent amendments of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) are aimed at boosting the efficiency of the anti-graft agencies in the country.
President of the network, Noel Kadiri, who disclosed this in Abuja yesterday, argued that the amendment became necessary because of the longevity of the law which was in existence for 20 years before the amendment by the Senate.
He said: “The intendment of the amendment as conceived in the wisdom of the lawmakers, is to strengthen the Commission. The ICPC was established over 20 years ago and its establishment Act has remained unchanged since then. Any right thinking or patriotic person knows that such legislation will have many of its provisions not in consonance with today’s reality.”
He further stated that the amendment was not aimed at whistle down the power of the ICPC chairman concerning constituency projects as erroneously believed.
In the reviewed version, all the fines in the Act were reviewed upward to reflect current realities. In the existing Act, no fine is more than one million naira. This Bill changed all the fines to as much as five million naira to create a real deterrent.
The Extant Act empowers the Director of Public Prosecution to give directives to the Commission. The Senate found this contrary to the norms of true independence which are prerequisites to the many regional and international conventions and treaties that Nigeria is a signatory to, including the UNCAC. The amendment deleted this clause to make the Commission more independent.
It is conventional to empower Commissions to make delegated legislation in the form of guidelines, rules, standing orders, and the like. For instance, INEC makes guidelines but it isn’t the INEC Chairman the Act empowers to make it but the Commission, which constitutes the Chairman and National Commissioners. If the existing Act grants only the Chairman to make guidelines, rules etc, the Senate found it proper to ensure that these rules etc are made by the Commission and not the Chairman alone. That is the crux of internal corporate governance.
The existing Act has a Chairman and 12 members constituting the Board of the Commission. These members are executive members, since they are full-time and draw monthly salaries. Hitherto these amendments, these members had been redundant and their knowledge and experience were never codified in the running of the Commission. This created a loophole in the administration of the Commission, which could be taken advantage of by an unwieldy Chairman.
The National Assembly in its wisdom thereafter created schedules for these Commissioners just as it exists in other critical institutions of government like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), where there are National Commissioners (legal services, mobilisation and education etc)
In other Commissions and public institutions, activities can be stalled because of the absence of one individual (the Chairman). Once this happens, a meeting cannot be held. To negate this lacuna, the amendment created a schedule guiding the proceedings of board meetings which allows members to elect one of their own to chair the duly convened meeting. This exists as well in all the Commissions such as Police Service Commission, Federal Civil Service, etc. What the amendment did was to relax the provision which says the quorum of the meeting is the Chairman and four members, to introduce flexibility.
Kadiri maintained that the amendments are well-intended, highly commendable and illustrate National Assembly’s desire to strengthen anti-corruption agencies and make them independent.
He added: “There is no ill-motive in the amendment process, and the public and all other stakeholders are hereby advised to ignore any attempt to throw a bad light on these amendments. A detailed perusal of the amendment would have demonstrated the benevolence of the Honourable and Distinguished members of the National Assembly. Anything otherwise may well be construed as a deliberate attempt to weaken the Commission and attenuate the momentum desired by the incoming administration to fight graft to a standstill.”