The Law, The Myth, The Limits Of The Code Of Conduct Tribunal (Part 1)

It is a notorious fact in the Nigerian political landscape that one becomes subject of persecution once you are not on the same political track with the ‘powers that be’. This issue has not only become a recurring display of political rascality, it can be likened to ‘alawada keriri’ histrionics.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), like any other governmental agency in our Country, by its recent acts, has clearly shown to Nigerians that it is capable of being used as an instrument of political vendetta and persecution. This can be seen from its recent odious activities surrounding the planned arraignment of the Senate President, on certain charges, some dating back to 12 years.

A person elected to the office of the Governor of a state, by virtue of Section 52 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in the Constitution.

Saraki’s 2003 Declaration of Assets Forms were filed on May 12, 2003, seventeen days before he was sworn into office as Governor of Kwara State. By law, the CCB was to investigate and verify the information contained in the said declaration without prejudice to the constitutional immunity enjoyed then by Saraki as a Governor, as was held in CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI V. IGP & ORS. (2002) LPELR-1258 (SC).

Whilst it is elementary that time does not run against the State in criminal proceedings, the state should be up and doing in prosecuting a criminal act earnestly and timeously. This will not only deter potential criminals, it will also nip criminal acts in the bud. How could the Code of Conduct Bureau have waited for twelve good years before discovering Saraki’s alleged crime? Its shameful.

 

The Legal Regime Of The Code Of Coduct

Bureau And Tribunal

The CCB was established by the provisions of paragraph 15 (1) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, which provides thus:

“There shall be established a tribunal to be known as Code of Conduct Tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman and two other persons”

See also: Section 20 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, CAP 23, LFN. The Act provides that the Bureau is established to deal with complaints of corruption by public servants for the breach of its provisions.

It is indisputable that the CCT by virtue of the powers conferred on it in Paragraph 18 of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, has powers to adjudicate on matters within its jurisdiction, including criminal ones.

Is The CCT A Superior Court Of Record?

It must be noted that superior courts of records in Nigeria are set out in  Section 6 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. Interestingly, the CCT is not listed as one of such Superior Courts. This credibly lay credence to the proposition that the CCT is not a superior Court of record. This is also expressed in the age long legal maxim of expressio unius est exclusio ulterius, meaning, the express mention of one or more thing of a particular class excludes others. In effect, the fact that the CCT was excluded from the Section means it is inferior, notwithstanding that both were created by the same constitution.

To further lend credence to the inferior nature of the CCT, is the condescending designation of the chairman and members of the Tribunal. Paragraph 15 (2) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution provides:

“The Chairman shall be a person who has held or is qualified to hold office as a Judge of a Superior Court of Record in Nigeria and shall receive remuneration as may be prescribed by law.”

It is clear from the above that, no member, including the Chairman of the CCT, on appointment, is a ‘Judicial Officer’, as defined in Section 318 (1) of the 1999 Constitution,unless he or she has held office as a Judge of superior Court of record in Nigeria.

Furthermore, Judicial Officers when appointed, subscribe to the Judicial Oath, prescribed in the 7th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, administered by the President, or the Chief Justice of Nigeria, or the Governor, as applicable. The Chairman and Members of the CCT on appointment, do not subscribe to such Judicial Oath, but to mere Official Oath.

Consequently, neither the Chairman nor members of the CCT, can be addressed as “Judge” or “Justice”, save where the Chairman or Member is a retired Judicial Officer serving on the CCT. On the contrary, Kadis and all Judicial Officers shall address themselves, and be addressed as, “Justice”.

This point was emphasized by the CJN, Justice Muhammed Mahmud, who had, in a letter addressed to the very Chairman of the CCT, Hon. Danladi Y. Umar, on 18th May, 2015, after stating the superiority of the normal Courts to the CCT, warned him to “desist forthwith from addressing (themselves) or being allowed to be addressed as ‘Justice’, save where the Member is a retired Judicial Officer serving on the Code of Conduct Tribunal”.

The fact that appeals lie from the CCT to the Court of Appeal does not, by itself alone, bequeath on it the status of a Superior Court of Record, as argued by some. For example, appeals also lie from the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee directly to the Supreme Court, not even the Court of Appeal. That will not by any stretch of the imagination, make its Chairman and Members, who are legal practitioners, Judicial Officers.

Are The CCT And FHC Courts Of Equal And Coordinate Jurisdiction?

Since it is now well settled that both courts are products of, and established by the constitution, can both Courts be said to have equal powers and exercise coordinate jurisdiction? The answer is again emphatic NO! The constitutional truth is that although both courts were created by the Constitution on the same day, they were not created equal. The CCT was never recognised as a Court of superior Jurisdiction like the Federal High Court.

The Constitution, having created the various courts, was very clear as to which of the courts were superior. In this regard, it is apposite to replicate the provisions of section 6 of the Constitution, de verbo in verborum:

(1)     The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation.

(2)     The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State.

 (3)    The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the States, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (i) of this section, shall be the ONLY superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record.

The Courts are: (a) the Supreme Court of Nigeria; (b) the Court of Appeal; (c)the Federal High Court; (d) the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (e) a High Court of a State; (f) the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (g) a Sharia Court of Appeal of a State; (h) the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (i)  a Customary Court of Appeal of a State; (j) such other courts as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which the National Assembly may make laws; and: (k) such other court as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws. (Capitalisation and underling ours’ , for emphasis).

As seen above, the Constitution intended only the courts listed in paragraph (a-i) of subsection 5, as the superior courts of record. Now, what is a superior court? According to the Collins English Dictionary – (Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition), superior court is (in England) a higher court not subject to control by any other court except by way of appeal.

See also Supreme Court of Judicature and the (in several states in USA), a court of general jurisdiction ranking above the inferior courts and below courts of last resort”.

It therefore means that  a superior court is a court of general competence which typically has unlimited jurisdiction with regard to civil and criminal legal cases.

Are PMB, the Judiciary, Legislature, Senate President, Chairman and Members of the CCT, APC, PDP, etal, reading and digesting this sermon on the mount?

 By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR

Author: NewsAdmin

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