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Nigeria: Bill to Amend Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Act

(Apr. 10, 2009) On April 1, 2009, the Nigerian Senate debated the Bill for an Act to Amend the Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, sponsored by Senator Sola Akinyede, which seeks to make the Independent Corruption and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) more efficient. If passed into law, this bill will allow the ICPC to begin investigations when it has “reasonable ground” to believe that corruption is taking place by an organization or an individual. It makes the ICPC's primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute corrupt public officers or civil servants and elected or appointed local government office holders. By way of addressing issues of jurisdictional overlap between the ICPC and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), it will limit the EFCC's role to monitoring money laundering and offenses committed by short-term public office holders at the federal and state levels. (Sufuyan Ojeifo, Senate Seeks to Give ICPC Powers to Initiate Investigations, THIS DAY, Apr. 2, 2009, available at http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=139814.)

The bill also has a provision that will remove some procedural hurdles said to have made the ICPC less efficient. Akinyede stated:

in its over eight years of existence, the ICPC has successfully prosecuted only 150 cases, an average of less than 20 cases per year. One of the reasons why this is so is because of procedural obstacles usually erected by defense lawyers to stall trials and the commonest of these obstacles is the filing of frivolous applications to stay proceedings in order to cause delay. The purpose of one of the proposed amendments (Section 72) is to remove some of these obstacles by limiting the effect of filing such frivolous applications and permit the court to continue with the substantive matter. (Id.)

Before the bill was referred to the Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes for further legislative action, senators debated the general principles on the basis of which the amendment on procedural aspects had attracted more attention. Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba argued that all possible measures must be taken to boost people's confidence in the judicial process: “you can not just suborn a judicial process by bringing up all sorts of distractions.” He added that this amendment does not in any way contradict section 46 of the Nigerian Constitution, which gives the Nigerian High Court original jurisdiction to adjudicate complaints brought by an individual for violation of the fundamental rights provided for in Chapter IV of the Constitution, including the right to due process of law. Ndoma-Egba argued that the fact that one has a right to a hearing does not mean that one should be allowed to abuse the system. (Id.)