Reps empower ICPC to investigate President, VP, Govs
By Uchenna Awom
National Assembly
Correspondent, Abuja
The bill to amend the Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Act, 2003, scaled the crucial second reading under controversial circumstances on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The bill, which would have been thrown out, going by the voting pattern, however, sailed through amid protests from many members. Deputy Speaker, Austin Opara, appealed to his colleagues to refer it to the committee for further debates. The bill was subsequently referred to the House Committee on Anti-Corruption.
Also on Tuesday, Chairman of the House of Representatives Sub-committee on Banks and Banking, Lawal Garba, said neither the sub-committee nor the House Committee on Banking and Currency has deliberated on the two bills, to amend the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFID) Act.
Major highlights of the ICPC bill include the sweeping powers that would be given to the chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate the president, vice-president and the governors irrespective of some constitutional hindrances.
Before now, the crop of public officers cannot be investigated as the commission lacked the power to do so.
The bill also gives the power to compel, summon, arrest and sanction suspects to the ICPC, to enable it function effectively in the fight against corruption. Besides the commission is empowered to beam its searchlight on public officers, and establish a corrupt act, rather than wait for petitions from members of the public.
Leading the debate on the executive bill, Leader of the House, Abdul Ningi, said the need to amend the Act became imperative, given the fact that the commission could not on its own investigate or establish a case against anybody unless it receives petition. As a result of this, all efforts to combat corruption have come to naught.
However, a member, Obeten Obeten warned the House to be wary of the constitutional implication of amending the Act, without first amending the constitution.
Apparently, referring to the immunity clause in the constitution, the lawmaker said amending the Act, with certain provisions would negate the provisions of the constitution, which will make it a nullity at the end.
While debunking news reports credited to the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Banking and Currency, U. S. A. Igwesi, that the House did not agree with the Senate’s action to cancel the N25b recapitalisation of banks, Garba said the bills were yet to be listed for reading on the floor of the House.
He said any decision to be taken on the issue of the recapitalisation would be guided by the nation’s economic interest that would involve an informed analysis of the country’s diversity, level of economic development and other variables.