In a recent development, the Nigerian Senate has passed a bill to amend the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Act. However, the details of the amendments made by the senators were not widely reported, leaving many in the dark regarding the specifics of the changes to the principal act of the ICPC.
While it was widely publicized that section 25 of the ICPC law had been amended to impose a two-year imprisonment term without an option of a fine for writers of false petitions, there were other notable modifications made by the senators that have received less attention.
The bill aimed to make the punishment for writing false petitions more stringent to deter individuals from misleading the commission. Senator Adamu Aliero, representing Kebbi Central, highlighted how people, including senators, often suffer at the hands of the commission due to false petitions.
Upon reviewing the details of the bill, it becomes evident that the amendments significantly curtailed the powers of the ICPC chairman, making the position more vulnerable to internal contestations within the commission.
One key amendment involves section 7(1) of the ICPC principal act, which previously granted the chairman the authority to issue administrative orders known as “standing orders” for the proper functioning and efficient administration of the commission. However, the Senate replaced the term “chairman” with the word “commission” in this provision.
Furthermore, the senators introduced changes to section 4(7) of the principal act, specifying the composition of the anti-graft agency. The amendments now include the establishment of positions such as deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, superintendents, assistant superintendents, senior investigators, and investigators.
Another significant alteration relates to the quorum required for the commission’s proceedings. While the principal act stipulated that the chairman and any four members of the commission would constitute a quorum, a new subsection was added, stating that the proceedings of the commission’s meetings would follow the schedule provided in the act.
In addition to the changes impacting the powers of the ICPC chairman, the amendment bill also addressed the punishment for bribery. Section 22 (3) of the principal act previously prescribed a seven-year jail term and a fine of one million naira for public officers involved in inflating the prices of goods or services. However, the Senate reduced the fine to N500,000 without the option of a jail term.
It is worth noting that the ICPC and the national assembly have been embroiled in a dispute over the constituency projects scheme. The ICPC uncovered instances of corruption and diversion of funds within the scheme, leading to the recovery of N2.8 billion worth of assets. Cases of bribery, false certification of projects, vague project descriptions, and improper tax deductions were among the issues identified by the ICPC.
The passing of the ICPC amendment bill by the Senate brings about significant changes to the powers and functioning of the anti-graft commission. These modifications, while aiming to enhance accountability and deter false petitions, have sparked discussions about the implications for the commission’s operations and effectiveness in combating corruption in Nigeria.