Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has explained that the House is investigating the Special Presidential Investigation Panel to ascertain where it got the powers to investigate public officers as it is not listed among the agencies listed to discharge that function in the constitution.
Dogara said while speaking at a public hearing on the Legality and Modus Operandi of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel in the National Assembly on Thursday, that the probe became imperative because of the confusion of roles which has been identified by the Executive branch itself.
He noted that the Constitution which is the supreme law governing affairs in Nigeria has vested the respective powers of investigation and eventual trial of public officers who are in breach of the Code of Conduct on the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, in addition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) which were established by two extant laws and copiously vested with powers and jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crime and to charge possible offenders to the Federal High Court.
Speaker Dogara added that while it is undeniably the responsibility of the Judiciary to give final interpretation on the legality or otherwise of any question of law, it is also the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to make laws, or to plug defects in any existing law, or to amend any laws as it deems fit, especially to protect Nigerian citizens from the possibility of double jeopardy of facing different laws and different judicial and executive agencies on the same subject matter.
He stated, “This investigation is further strengthened by the confusion of roles which has been identified by the Executive branch itself. It is public knowledge that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had waded into these matters in a letter titled, ‘Re: Directive in Respect of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the recovery of public property’, which has not been denied. According to Malami’s letter to Obono-Obla: “I have received a letter Ref. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated 20th October, 2017 in respect of the above subject from the Office of the Vice President. In the said letter, the Vice President expressed his concerns on the activities of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property which runs contrary to the enabling Act establishing it. He also noted that the activities of the Panel run foul or contrary to established administrative procedures and protocols in the Federal Civil Service Structure”.
Hon Dogara continued, “The spirit, if not the letter, of Section 36(9) of the Constitution guaranteeing a right to fair hearing and outlawing double trial by Courts or Tribunal set up by law, should guide our attitude on this matter, especially now that the Supreme Court has decided that the Code of Conduct Tribunal has a quasi criminal jurisdiction.
“While we recognise the need to tackle the problem of corruption with renewed vigour in our society, as we fully subscribe to the dictates of the Constitution which enjoins the State to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ Section 15(5), we must, however, be conscious of doing things and implementing our laws in such ways and manner that will portray us as a democratic society conscious of the Rule of Law and Fundamental human rights.”