Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has declared that as part of digitalising it’s operations, assets declaration forms will be made available online by the end of the year.
The Chairman of CCB, Mohammed Isah, made this disclosure at the one day trianing in partnership with the House of Representative Committee on Ethics and Privileges on code of conduct for legislators.
Recall earlier in the year, the CCB had said it has commenced a review of its asset declaration forms for public office holders which it said would factor in provisions for valuables such as jewelleries, cryptocurrency, intellectual properties, and key other personal valuables.
The one day interactive session was organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), in partnership with MacArthur Foundation, House of Representative Committee on Ethics and Privileges and CCB.
Mohammed, who described the interaction as apt especially considering recent events in the country.
He admitted that there is a great deal of mistrust between the leaders and the lead occasioned by a single act of corruption,. He said: “There is no sector in this country that one can venture into with a view to making things better for citizens faced with challenges of corruption one way or the other, directly or indirectly.
“So the task of giving an overview of the code of conduct in Nigeria, is very instructive and timely. It is important to know the legal and legislative framework that the Nigerian legislators have put in place and the operational capacity of the institutions that are mandated to enforce such laws against corruption.”
The CCD chairman said there are a number of international frameworks aimed at tackling all manner of corruption in the country, adding that it was dishonorable for public officers to expect their palms to be greased while doing their legitimate duties.
Mohammed said: “It is dishonorable of any public officer not to do what he is expected to do in order to undermine the interest of that office and that of the society at large. It is also dishonorable for any officer to expect something to come his way in the course of duty which is not lawful earning. So there are several misconduct that a public office will engage in which will jeopardize the interest of his office as well as that of the nation.”
He said when ethics is upheld, everything will go right and the mirage of corruption challenges bedeviling the country will be checked and brought to the lowest ebb.
He stressed that the CCB is tasked with the responsibility to create awareness and enlightenment for public officers to comply with code of conduct as enshrined in the constitution. He added that the bureau also has enforcement power to ensure compliance with code of conduct of public officers as well as ensure due process is followed in public procurement. It has powers to receive complaints, petitions, gather intelligence, investigate and prosecute where a public officer is indicted.
He concluded that there are two ways to get rid of the nation’s corruption problems, one by the fear of God or by the fear of the laws of the land “but in Nigeria none is exiting, people do things with impunity.”
Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, stressed that the training was organized to update the knowledge of the committee members on their role and responsibilities especially as the country has introduced through the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) national policy on ethics.
He admitted that of the major challenges facing the country was that of that of Assets declaration in the country, hence the decision to have code of conduct bureau share perspective with members.
He said: “We believe that this committee is one of the most important if it will be allowed to work, because it will guide the behavior and conduct of members of National Assembly. Lawmakers can only be celebrated if they live by ethical values, the interactive session will go along way in terms of helping them carry out their responsibilities.
“We know their task is not welcome because they are the police of their colleagues, they can sanction anybody not adhering to ethical conducts. It is a powerful committee, it may not be considered as lucrative to members but the work they are doing is lucrative to Nigerians, it is their work that will ensure proper governance, legislative and ethics compliance. So for Nigerians it is an important committee that needs to be supported at all levels and at all cost and that is why CISLAC is happy to continue to engage with this committee to provide them with information and tools and also create linkages and synergy. That is why the presence of ICPC, Nigeria legal and advanced study and code of conduct bureau clearly show the synergy that the committee needs in order to continue to show exemplary leadership.”
MacArthur Foundation’s Oladayo Olaide, said that the foundation in the last five years has been involved in supporting efforts in the fight against corruption. He said through interactions, Nigerians have admitted that the country’s biggest single challenge is corruption and that it didn’t matter how much is voted to any particular sector, until it is dealt with, the fruits will never be seen.
He said: “Our budget has grown astronomically but in terms of human development indices, we continue to struggle to make Nigerians feel a sense of development that impact their lives. That is why the foundation has continued to work with government and civil society.”
Olaide commended ICPC bold steps of reforms one of its partners, ICPC has taken in the fight against corruption.
He said: “Today, we are struggling with issues put together by the nation’s young people. The ENDSARS protest started with a call to an end to police brutality but we have all seen that it moved to broader issues of governance, well being, national unity and stability. I think the National Assembly has a major role to play in this. There can be no greater expression of leadership than a leadership that shows integrity. That is why I think this meeting is so important because I see a strong connection between what we have been trying to do and the issues that are facing us as a country, the demands that have been put on the table by young people.
The demand is that we need to reform and give them a sense of belonging but sense of belonging will start from what they see as exemplary leadership.”
MacArthur Foundation commended the committee’s chairman leadership that has so far been demonstrated in the partnership with CISLAC.
He said: “Discussions about integrity and ethics is not something that is popular more so in government offices. It is not something that people are always excited or at ease to talk about. So being able to demonstrate and show openly the commitment to this need to be commended.
“Ethics and privileges committee does not fall into the category of juicy committee, your work puts you at odds, at risk of being called out by your colleagues, so for those of you in this committee we need to commend your strength and courage for doing this work.”
Laide noted that one of the concerns of the MacArthur foundation is that while it’s easy to put down the code of ethics, the challenge however is how to operationalise it. “But we were assured of the committee’s commitment to see to the operationalization of the guidelines. So we are saying that this is the commitment that was made and so at the end of the contract, our consultant will evaluate and establish the extent to which this commitment has been realize.”
He pleaded with the ethics and privileges committee and all anti-corruption agencies to synergise and ensure several outstanding integrity bills on the floor of the National Assembly are passed.
He said: “I kindly urged you to give attention to these important bills, one is the federal audit bill. It is one of the most crucial legislations that has been in the National Assembly, it’s been there for quite a while. There is the whistle blower bill that has been at the National Assembly for a while. The importance of these bills cannot be overemphasized. There has been proceeds from crime act bill and then of recent management or mismanagement of recovered assets. Recovery of assets became a major issue, if we had a focal bill in place probably that problem would have been dealt with.
Finally, elections has become the single biggest issue in our country. Bills to reform electoral act are also at the National Assembly. I want to crave your kind indulgence to give attention and priority to these bills. In our effort to strengthen democracy and also give the sense of belonging and begin to build trust of the general populace in the National Assembly and in every democratic institutions in our country.”
In his remarks, chairman House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Kolawole Lawal, admitted that being part of the committee has not been easy because, some people believe it’s not a juicy committee.
“But we believe that integrity is the best compared to being in any juicy committee. We are committed to doing what we are suppose to do as members and I commend everyone for accepting to write their names in gold.
“Integrity is about doing what is right and demonstrates that one is upright.
The benefits of this interaction is that it provides a set of principles that is designed to help us as members discharge our responsibilities honestly and with a sense of integrity, which in essence means it’s about behavioral change in public service.
“It enables lawmakers hold themselves to high ethical standards which is consistent with the legislative mandate as captured in section 64 of the constitution.
“It also helps to hold lawmakers accountable and do what is right. It will also make lawmakers advocates of the fight against corruption, performance legislative functions as well as entire public life of the citizens of Nigeria, as well as erase negative perception of the country in international community and accelerate the development of the country.”