CJID, Others, Condemn the Attempts by NASS to Whittle Down the Power of the ICPC

The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) is concerned about the surreptitious amendments of the Act establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) by the National Assembly without due consultations and engagement with citizens and necessary stakeholders from the anti-corruption cohort including the ICPC. 

In the bill, the authority of the Chairman and the Commission to combat corruption in Nigeria came under direct assault, compromising the powers of the agency to fulfil its statutory mandate to fight official malfeasances. 

A review of the proposed bill, passed by the Upper Chamber on 4 June 2023, without the consultation of relevant stakeholders, clearly shows the legislators’ position in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.  For instance, by substituting the word ‘board members’ with the word ‘commissioners’ in sections 3(5), 3(6), 3(7), 3(8), 3(9) and 3(10) of the Principal Act as amended and inserting section (11) for offices of the commissioners, the powers of the ICPC have been delegated to the Committees who are politically appointed, thus affecting the integrity of the Commission in the discharge of its duties. 

While Section 4(2) of the original ICPC Act states that the Chairman and any four board members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum for meetings, the Senate amended the existing subsection (2) for a new subsection which provides that a quorum for meetings shall be ‘any five board members and the five members in attendance shall appoint a Chairman to preside over the meetings’. The import of this amendment is that ‘any five members’ of the board can meet and take far-reaching decisions, without the presence of the Chairman, as any member can be delegated in his absence to chair the meeting.

In addition, a new amendment in Section 7(1) of the Principal Act states that: “The Chairman may issue administrative orders to be called “standing orders”, which shall conform with the provisions of the general control, training, duties and responsibilities of officers of the commission and for such other matters as may be necessary or expedient for the good administration of the Commission and to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the Commission. The Senate amended Section 7(1) of the Principal Act, substituting the word ‘Chairman’ for ‘Commission’. This new amendment clearly usurps the powers of the Chairman, granting a window for the arbitrary abuse of the same powers and unnecessary power tussles, thus turning the commission into a jungle of needless power-flexing entities.

Also, section 70 of the Provisional Act confers the Chairman of the Commission the power to make rules without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of the Act. However, by replacing ‘chairman’ with ‘commission’, the Senate is seeking to give the board the power to institute rules to govern the operations of the Commission, and this will subject the ICPC to external political influence and continued infringement of the provisions of the public procurement law.

These amendments seriously threaten democracy and the fight against corruption, which the Commission has doggedly fought in the last two decades, especially with the Constituency and Executive Project Tracking Group Initiative (CEPTGi).  As a founding member of the Steering Committee, the CJID has observed the efficient and effective anti-corruption work implemented by the Commission in collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs), in tracking and monitoring the execution of over 4,000 constituency and executive projects worth over 200 billion naira, forcing contractors to return to project sites and enabling government and citizens to get value for funds spent. 

Nigeria’s recent move by four places from its previous position in the 2022 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International indicates that the initiative is yielding tangible results and thus, should be encouraged. We view this act by NASS as a mission of vendetta against the Commission over its unyielding posture against corruption in the public service by public officials.

In all fairness, these modifications have grave implications for the Commission and the country. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and a  member of the Open Government Partnership, we urge the National Assembly to halt the passage of this amendment bill until due consultations, research and stakeholders engagement have been undertaken to ensure the law further enhances the powers of the ICPC to carry out its mandate and perform its functions optimally. 

We appeal to the members of the National Assembly, rather than stifling the powers of the ICPC, to consult with necessary stakeholders to devise strategies to strengthen and support the ICPC and other anti-graft agencies to efficiently carry out their mandate, as we look to rid our dear nation of the corruption that has severely constrained developmental efforts. 

Signed:

Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)

Connected Development (CODE)

BudgIT Foundation

Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI)

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