In this piece, SAMUEL ODAUDU examines how the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, can enhance public probity and accountability in governance by being more active
Public corruption in Nigeria is one of the most daunting challenges being faced by Nigeria. Several public office holders enter into office poor or moderately rich but whenever they leave office, they become wealthier in a most disproportionate rate to their income while in office.
The Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, is the government agency that is vested with the responsibility of verifying how much a public officer such as the president, vice president, governor, deputy governor, ministers, local government council chairmen, and other public officers, is worth before he or she enters office and how much he or she is worth after a successful completion of his or her tenure. Is this law being followed?
A large number of public officials in Nigeria have one form of allegation bordering on corruption hanging on their necks. A few of them shuttle between their homes to the courts where they face prosecution, what has become an endless battle with anti-corruption agencies.
Some former state governors and public officials are currently facing trials over allegations of corruption and compromise of their official position for personal aggrandizements. While this is commendable, some of the cases have been going on for a very long time and no one can determine their end.
The question is: Is the CCB doing its work according to the letter and spirit of its functions?
“Members of the public hardly ever get to know how the CCB makes the information regarding asset declaration accessible to interested members of the public”, said Akan Adaji, a researcher in social behaviours. “Its funny how we conduct ourselves as people. how can we make laws and make such laws so complicated that it sabotages our purpose? How can we create different government agencies and we don’t get the best from them, yet we pay them to do their jobs.
“If there is an EFCC, ICPC, CCB, the fraud investigation unit of the Police Force and the rest and we are still lamenting that corruption is killing Nigeria, how do you explain that to any intelligent person? If these agencies are doing their jobs, where are the proves? Can we subject such proves to critical test?” Adaji said.
An Abuja-based public communication veteran, Deji Ajayi is miffed that the CCB has not set any meaningful example. “For instance, In October last year, the CCB directed the former Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, when he was still serving, to declare his asset before the expiration of his tenure. Did he do it? I don’t know”, he said.
He also added a poser: “Does that mean that the CCB has not found anything wrong with the assets declaration of Nigerian public officials?”
According to information contained in the Mandate and Powers of the Bureau, “The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (1990) gave the Bureau the mandate to establish and maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of Government Business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standard of public morality and accountability.
“To implement the above mandate, Section 3, part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has provided an enabling legal environment for the Bureau to: (i) Receive declarations (of asset) by public officers under paragraph 11 of part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution (ii) Examine the declarations in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct or any Law (iii) Retain custody of such declarations and make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe (iv) Ensure compliance with and, where appropriate, enforce the provisions of the Code of Conduct or any law relating thereto (v) Receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct or any law in relation thereto, investigate the complaints and, where appropriate, refer such matters to the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
(vi) Appoint, promote, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over the staff of the Code of Conduct Bureau in accordance with the provisions of an Act of the National Assembly enacted in that behalf and (vii) Carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by the National Assembly”.
It also went on to state that “Details of the Code governing the conduct of public officers and for which a violation would amount to corruption is reproduced below: (1) A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities. (2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing paragraph a public officer shall not: (a) Receive or be paid emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receive or is paid the emoluments of any other public office; or (b) Except when he is not employed in full time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade; but nothing in this paragraph shall prevent a public officer from engaging in farming or participating in the management or running of any farm. (3) The President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers of the government of the Federation and Commissioners of the Government of States, members of the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly of the States and such other public officers or persons, as the National Assembly may by law prescribe shall not maintain cooperate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria”.
Point number six (1) stated that, “A public officer shall not ask for or accept any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties. (2) For the purpose of sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph the receipt by a public officer of any gifts or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with the government shall be presumed to have been received in contravention of the said sub-paragraph unless the contrary is proved. (3) A public officer shall only accept personal gifts or benefit from relatives or personal friends to such extent and on such occasions as are recognised by custom”.
The law also stated that “A public officer shall not be a member of, belong to, or take part in any secret society and or any society the membership of which is incompatible with the functions and dignity of his office. 11. 1. Every public officer shall within 3 months after taking office and thereafter:
(a) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his term of office:
Submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets and liabilities and those of his spouse, or unmarried children under the age of 21 years. 2. Any statement in such declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised in that behalf to verify it shall be deemed to be a breach of this Code.
“3. Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration require under this constitution and which is not fairly attributable by sub-paragraph (l)(a) of this gifts or loan approved by the code shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this Code unless the contrary is proved. 12. Any allegation that a public officer has committed a breach of or has not complied with the provision of this Code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau. A public officer who does any act prohibited by this Code through a nominee, trustee, or other agent shall be deemed ipso facto to have committed a breach of this code”, it stated.
More than before now, there is a wider view that most Nigerian public officials run foul of this law but only few are taken to task by the law. In other words, if important agencies of government such as the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, have been living up to its task diligently, the level of corruption in the country would have been drastically curbed.
The CCB has stated that it lacks power to make asset declaration of public officials public. Reports quoted the chairman of the CCB, Mr. Sam Sada, through his Special Assistant, Mr. Gwimi Sebastian Peter, saying that
“While the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act give the bureau powers to receive assets declarations, verify, examine, keep in custody and enforce compliance when there is a breach, the responsibility of determining how and on what terms asset declarations will be made accessible to the public was left to the National Assembly. “Several National Assemblies have come and gone since the establishment of the CCB without addressing the matter.”
Critics of CCB are asking the agency to initiate necessary proposal to the National Assembly for legislative action if this will help public probity.