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Expand the judicial panel of CCT

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Sir: The Code of Conduct Tribunal is a judicial court established by the 1999 Constitution with a mandate to try public officials for breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act. The CCT is also empowered to impose sanctions on an offending public officers if found guilty to have contravened any of the provisions of the code of conduct for public officers. The offences in the code of conduct, range from bribe collection, wrong declaration of assets, abuse of powers, conflict of interest etc.

However, since the establishment of the CCB/CCT, there are no resounding cases of convictions recorded against high profile public officers apart from the case against the former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen. We recall that in the case of Onnoghen, an NGO filed a suit of non-declaration of asset against the former CJN, the CCB received the application within two days after it was filed and immediately summoned the CJN to appear before the CCT a day after for trial.

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The CCB as a paramount anti-corruption agency, whose establishment and job description has been guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution is expected to receive and file petitions on abuse of office by public officers before the CCT. A clear example of such cases should be the no declaration of assets by public servants. It is no longer news that the quantum of public servants who have failed to abide with the constitutional provision of declaring their assets immediately they assume office and update it after every four years is alarming.

Unfortunately, the failure of the CCB to present the CCT with violations of the code of conducts by public servants has made the CCT redundant.  The creation of the CCT with only three members as judicial panel, to adjudge cases of over more than five million public servants, is as if the CCT was created to fail. Assuming the CCT receive hundreds of cases simultaneously from different parts of the country, is the current panel adequate to handle such cases with such swiftness to which it handled the former CJN’s case?  This would be absolutely impossible.

All the petitioners and accused have to fly down to Abuja for the determination of the case since it is impossible to fly the judicial panel to each of the states to conduct hearing. Another difficulty would arise when one or more member of the CCT panel is indisposed, it would create a shortfall in the required quorum needed to hear the case brought before the tribunal. Based on the foregoing, I propose an amendment of the 1999 Constitution and the CCB/CCT Act to increase the current panel of the CCT from three to at least nine members as obtained in the Supreme Court. A subnational division of the CCT should be created in each state just like the state high courts to hear and determine cases of breach of conduct by public officers. It is only when applicants are not satisfied with the judgement of the state, before the matter would be brought to the National Tribunal.  

Victor Emejuiwe, programme officer, Centre for Social Justice, Abuja.

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