The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has said that its primary responsibility of checking corrupt practices is challenged by inadequate funding and failure of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to sit on corruption cases “for some years now”.
The tribunal is responsible for the trial of public officers found to have falsified assets in their declaration before and after taking public office.
CCB’s Deputy Director, Michael Okwose told a special radio town hall meeting on corruption, organised by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG) at the weekend in Abuja, that, after rigorous investigations, public officers indicted are hardly put to trial.
CCB is a pioneer anti-corruption agency set up by the Federal Government to maintain a high morality standard and check corrupt practices among public officers. CCT is an independent administrative court of the bureau.
While calling on the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration to prioritise funding of the bureau, Okwose said that the CCB could not boast of bringing corrupt politicians or public office holders to book in the last couple of years because the tibunal, which is constitutionally empowered to try corruption investigations, failed to “sit” for no known reason in the last two years.
“The challenge we have in the bureau is our court in the Code of Conduct Tribunal. We carry out investigations. We receive petitions from the public about non-compliance with the conduct of public officers. We receive complaints about people breaching their provisions, and after investigation, we refer our cases to the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“What I can tell you is the tribunal is not sitting. It makes us (CCB) look like we’re not doing anything.
“For some years now, the CCT hardly sits. There are so many pending cases before the tribunal. So that is why if you talk about conviction now, there is none because the tribunal is not sitting. That is our major problem,” Okwose emphasised.
On strengthening the CCB, Okwose urged the incoming administration to empower the CCB. “We need funds to carry out investigation and verification; we also need personnel recruitment. Everything is down to funding”.
The Chief Operating Officer of 21st Century Community Empowerment for Youth and Women Initiative, Lukman Adefolahan backed calls for CCB’s adequate funding, adding that the incoming administration must tighten public procurement processes, empower the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation and amend the audit law that is currently in use if it truly wants to fight corruption.
Adefolahan also said that the government should digitise the assets declaration of public office holders and work towards cutting the cost of governance immediately by reviewing and implementing the Stephen Orosanye White Paper Report on the Rationalisation of the Federal Civil Service.
“We are still using the 1956 Audit Act in Nigeria, which is pre-colonial. It is very unfortunate. If we can get CCB right, if we get Office of Auditor General right, ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission), EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and others will be doing lesser work”, he explained.
The Director of Legal and Documentation, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Tochukwu Ohazurike said the Tinubu administration must possess the political will to fight corruption if it would make any progress while joining calls for digitization of assets declaration at CCB.
He said:” If he (Tinubu) has the willpower, let him digitize CCB, digitise issues of property sales and transactions in the entire country. Something must be done about our criminal justice system”.
Media consultant and activist, Princess Halima Jubril lamented that the media did not fare well under the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari administration on many fronts, especially the three major mantras the administration campaigned, which were anti-corruption, economy and security.
She urged the incoming government to be holistic in their anti-corruption approach and ensure adequate funds are provided for CCB to do their job. She added that the media would not relent in their responsibility to hold the government to account as mandated by the constitution.
The PRIMORG’s Town Hall Meeting Against Corruption series is aimed at calling the public and government attention to specific issues of corruption in Nigeria.
The syndicated radio programme runs with support from the MacArthur Foundation.