Saraki Trial: Civil Society condemns legislature’s effort to frustrate justice
We the undersigned Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to promote justice and good governance in Nigeria have been monitoring with consternation, the on-going undemocratic, self-serving, and dubious attempt by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to hasten the passage of the proposed amendment to the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). It is clear that these underhand moves in the Senate are aimed at whittling down the powers of the agencies with a view to helping the Senate President, escape justice.
It will be recalled that at the ongoing trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, startling and mind boggling revelations have emerged about how the Senate President had been receiving double salaries, long after he ceased to occupy the governorship of his home State of Kwara. The Senate President is also in the dock over allegations of false and anticipatory declarations of assets. He is also alleged to have breached the law by keeping secret foreign accounts in offshore tax heavens, as confirmed in the leaked Panama Papers. The so-called distinguished fellow has equally been indicted for the forgery of Senate rules. These are weighty allegations, which ordinarily should have compelled Dr. Saraki to step down and use the judicial process to clear his name. Rather than take this honourable path as dictated by civilized norms of public conduct, the Senate President has decided to sit-tight. He has gone on to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians by attempting to use the instrument of the legislative process to subvert his trial at the CCT.
It is therefore clear to us that the moves being made to amend the legislation in question is not about making it better to strengthen the anti-corruption fight. Rather, it is a clear move to halt the momentum in the war against corruption. It is clear for all to see that such uncommon legislative strength, power and time deployed towards the amendment are clearly not directed at promoting the interests of common Nigerians.
As if his alleged crimes are not enough, Mr. Saraki shows disdain and contempt to Nigerians and the rule of law by closing down the Senate and carrying a majority of Senators to the Tribunal whenever he is arraigned. The Senators who are paid to carry out their legislative duties abandon their work to go and provide solidarity to someone charged with criminal acts. When workers go on strike, they are not paid for the period they are not working, why should different rules apply to Senators. We condemn the irresponsibility of Senators who have abandoned work on so many critical bills to concentrate on the amendment to the CCT Act. Key legislations of critical importance to addressing poverty and supporting economic growth have remained dormant for years while all energies are now focused on protecting Senator Saraki. Examples of Bills set aside include the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, among others.
We wish to draw the attention of Nigerians to the end game of the Senate to strip the Tribunal of the powers to sanction corrupt individuals – hence their claim that the “Code of Conduct Tribunal was delving into criminal proceedings and criminal trial, which was not the intention of the framers of the Act”. They want to transform the CCT into a toothless bulldog. Nigerians must rise against the unethical behavior of legislative leaders weakening laws so that they continue to enjoy impunity.
What we are witnessing is the betrayal of public trust, total disregard for administration of justice, and utmost conflict of interest by the 8th Senate. Section 172 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria states that: “A person in the public service of the Federation shall observe and conform to the Code of Conduct”. As representatives of the people, Nigerian Senators derive their mandate directly from the electorate and have the obligation to be accountable. We must remind the Nigerian Senate that the on-going injudicious efforts to frustrate the trial of Senator Saraki can only lead the body into accelerated reputational loss. We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent should the self-serving Bill is passed. We also urge the House of Representatives to dissociate themselves from endorsing such unscrupulous, immoral and illegal mutilation of the Act establishing Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Finally, we are convinced that if we do not destroy corruption, corruption would destroy Nigeria. We therefore warn the Senate to immediately stop their unpatriotic acts aimed at sustaining corruption or we shall show them our anger as citizens in whose name they are exercising power.
1. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
2. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
3. Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITA)
4. Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
5. Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN)
6. Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA)
7. Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
8. West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF-Nigeria)
9. Protest to Power Movement
10. Partners for Electoral Reform(PER)
11. State of the Union (SOTU)
12. Advocacy Nigeria
13. Women in Nigeria
14. African Centre for Media and Information Literacy
15. Environmental Right Action (ERA)
16. National Procurement Watch Platform
17. Say NO Campaign—Nigeria
18. Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED)
19. United Action for Democracy (UAD)
20. Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
21. Centre for Advance Social Science
22. Social Action
23. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
24. Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
25. Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
26. Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative
27. Niger Delta Society Coalition (NDCSC)
28. Doing Democracy Movement (DDM)