May 26, 2010

NASS, EFCC, where is the Prosecutor?

“National Assembly cannot convict anyone, it cannot sentence anyone and it cannot have its judgements, decisions or findings entered in a law court as a judicial ruling”
The business of the National Assembly is NOT to PROBE past or present administrations. The statutory duty of the National Assembly according to the constitution is primarily to make laws. This it does by scrutinizing member bills, executive bills etc through its committees. The problem is that the constitution under the National Assembly section grants the National Assembly very broad powers of oversight over the Executive and also powers to impeach appointed federal officials including the Attorney General of the Federation. Particularly section 88 and 89 which gives the National Assembly very broad powers to scrutinize the conduct of officials which receive direct appropriation from the Appropriate Acts passed by the National Assembly. But the spirit of this law is not to engage the National Assembly as a prosecutor for the law or even as a corruption buster. At the bottom line the National Assembly cannot convict anyone, it cannot sentence anyone and it cannot have its judgements, decisions or findings entered in a law court as a judicial ruling. The powers conferred on the National Assembly are only “ to make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws” and “expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it” (see 1999 constitution Chapter IV section 88 subsection 2)

The Fight Against Corruption
To fight corruption, to punish mal-administration and to clean up the National Government and restore trust in the system these are roles that cannot be achieved by National Assembly probes. Corruption is already exposed. What the country needs is a PROSECUTOR. A vital, legally and administratively independent and fair Judicial Prosecutor with enough powers to order investigations, try suspects, convict offenders and answer to the public. The past decade has seen a lot of probes involving billions of dollars of investments, contracts and oil windfall earning etc. It has become so routine that the question begs to be answered – Who and where is the National Prosecutor? Nearly all of these probes end up with a cancelled contract, a revoked agreement or just nothing achieved in certain instances except erode further the public trust and confirm their worst fears. More often no one is actually prosecuted, no one is fired, no lessons are learned and the processes leading to other heavily publicised probes are repeated over and over again. At best someone is forewarned to cover his tracks more rigorously or doctor the books more deftly and the tax payer/national income is squandered by recycled public administrators who have lost all sense of decorum and public trust.
Where is the National Prosecutor?
But really who is the national prosecutor? Not the National Assembly. Though it is a responsibility of the National Assembly to have broad oversight over Executive actions (including the Presidency) it can rarely reverse those actions or order different actions. It is the primary responsibility of the National Assembly, through its committees, to study and enact laws that the government runs on. They must do this by being close to the electorate in their constituencies, by public hearings, and by accepting advice from professionals and subject matter experts within context of laws needed. The issue of probes, public indiscretions and suspected embezzlement and or corruption by public officials must ideally be referred to a trusted organ of state for an independent investigation, prosecution of suspects, conviction and punishment. That is how it should be. In so far as probes by the National Assembly achieves some good (at least it means someone is watching) it is not ideal since they have got no powers to fire several high ranking executives in the public service, and they have not enough time and resources to investigate criminal actions by public administrators and civil servants.
NASS Petitions
Evidence shows that many people do not even realise what the responsibilities of the National Assembly are. Even some members of that body need to advise themselves what roles they ought to play in the government. Take for instance, between July – August 2008 several petitions submitted and sponsored by various lawmakers. Of the lot 86% of them was asking the National Assembly to reinstate them in there public service positions or give them some redress from a labour related issue. Now how can the National Assembly obtain powers to order First Bank to pay entitlements to an employee that was fired? The same goes for Julius Berger employees, NPF, National Steel and Raw Materials Agency, NNPC, Nigerian Army etc. Should the National Assembly be busy passing resolutions that cannot be enforced, cannot be honoured (because it is clearly not a part of the Board of either Julius Berger, First Bank etc). Does these lawmakers actually know what their jobs are?
The National Assembly should be studying laws that should empower the EFCC, the code of Conduct Bureau, the judiciary, the police and the Attorney General to perform their constitutional roles effectively.These entities must stand up to be counted and perform their assigned constitutional roles. I have respect for the individuals appointed in these roles but if they cannot perform then surely the National Assembly can play a role.


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