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Reps probe Special Presidential investigative panel for recovery of public property

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The House of Representatives has expressed concern over alleged interference with the functions of Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

The House resolution came barely 24 hours after Festus Keyamo, counsel to the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) filed an ex-parte motion at the Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking to freeze all hidden assets that were traced to Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President.

To this end, it ordered an investigation into the activities of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property to ensure that it works within the confines of the law and conforms to best practices.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara is expected to announce the names of the chairman and members of the Adhoc Committee at the next legislative day.

The Ad-hoc committee, is also expected to investigate the modus operandi and legality of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.

In his lead debate, Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) noted the inauguration of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) pursuant to the Public Property Special Provisions Act, CAP R4 LFN, 2004 otherwise known as Decree No 3, 1984 with the commencement date of 31st December 1983.

Chinda revealed that the panel is alleged to have received petitions from Nigerians and its mode of operation is to proceed to invite citizens to fill asset declaration form which is by law the exclusive mandate of the Code of Conduct Bureau under the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act CAP T 15, LFN 2004″.

“Following the activities of the Panel, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation has received several complaints from the general public on the need to take an in-depth look at the law viz-a viz the various anti-corruption agencies that are now established, particularly the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal”, Chinda said.

Chinda who doubles as chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, submitted that Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution captures the Code of Conduct Bureau as a federal executive body and that the 5th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution provides greater details of the act amounting to a breach of the code of conduct of public officers and established the Code of Conduct Tribunal. “Part II of the Schedule defined a public officer in the context of the constitutional provision.

“The Public Property (Special Provision) Act codified as CAP R4 LFN, 2004 predates the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act CAP T15 LFN 2004, whereas the Act commenced 31st Dec, 1983, the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act commenced on 1st January, 19991, (8 years later).

“The Public Property (Special Provision) Act CAP R4 LFN 2004 is a spent law by virtue of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, CAP T15 LFN 2004, the functions specified by the Act to be performed through panels established by the President are now performed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal which serves as a special court headed by a qualified Judge of a superior court of record in Nigeria to try the offences regarding the breach of the Code of the conduct of public officers. Beside the Code of Conduct Act being a newer law on the subject matter, has made specific provisions on the matter.

“It is a trite law that the court would construe a later act as repealing an earlier one if the two provisions cannot stand together or if they both make the same provisions dealing with a similar subject matter as established in Trade Bank Plc Vs. Lagos Island Local Govt (2003) FWLR (Pt 161) 1734,” he observed.

The Rivers state lawmaker further expressed concern that: “there cannot be two parallel agencies of government no matter the manner of operation undertaking the same functions in whatever guise or form. This more so where the functions are so similar that the public are meant to go through repeated processes and procedures which may infringe on their rights and give rise to series of litigation and the consequential loss of revenue both in overheads and the execution of awards in the damages.

“Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) ought not to have been set up in view of the existence of such institutions as the EFCC, ICPC and especially the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal both created by law and supported by the 1999 constitution.

“Mindful that the Code of Conduct Tribunal is a special court whose Chairman is a qualified Judge of a superior court of record dealing with matters related to the subject whereas the Public Property (Special Provision) Act, CAP R4, LFN, 2004 gives jurisdiction to the Federal High Court under Section 2(2)b which is not only inconsistent with the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act but inconsistent with section 251 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which did not include the code of conduct matters under the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court – Trade Bank plc Vs Lagos Island Local Govt (2003),” he argued.

Chinda posited that there are economic implications of setting up multiple agencies with its ravaging effects on the revenue of government.

To this end, the House resolved to an investigate the activities of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property with the view to ensure that works within the confines of the law and conforms to best practices.

 

KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja