By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dapo Akinrefon
LAGOS— President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to employ five proposed laws as his weapons in the fight against corruption, close associates of the President have disclosed.
Presidency sources disclosed that a committee of legends in law, led by the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo identified the five bills which have been passed on to the President for further scrutiny.
The President in turn is said to have requested legal advice on the five bills which include the Office of the Financial Ombudsman Bill 2015, National Convicts and Criminal Records Bill 2015, Electronics Transactions Bill 2015, Whistle Blower Protection Bill 2015 and the Nigerian International Financial Centre Bill 2015.
All five bills were among the 46 rushed through the Senate on June 3, the last day of sitting by the 7th Senate. Presidency sources, however, could not confirm if the presidency gave any prompting to the Senate on the bills that led to the controversial passage of the 46 bills in a space of 10 minutes.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu nevertheless confirmed the presidency’s interest in the five bills but would not say more than that when contacted by Vanguard.
However, normally reliable sources close to the President told Vanguard that the President has sought legal advice on the bills. The sources, however, would not say to what degree the Osinbajo-led committee of legends in law has gone on the issue, but it is expected that the committee would prod the President to give his assent to the bills.
Osinbajo has generally been expected to lead the administration’s efforts in justice sector reform and the identification of the five bills in the initial campaign against graft is believed to be in that direction.
Osinbajo leads law experts
“A Committee of legends in law led by Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) is putting finishing touches to a recommendation that will request President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to five of the 46 bills hurriedly passed by the 7th National Assembly at the point of its exit,” the normally reliable source now working with the president told Vanguard on the basis of anonymity.
The sources, however, could not confirm if the opinion have been delivered to the President who is expected back in the country today after a two-day visit to South Africa.
It is expected that the President’s assent to the bills would officially signal the administration’s expected fight against corruption.
Garba told Vanguard that President Buhari and his Vice had promised the nation in the course of their campaign that they would strengthen the country’s anti-graft laws. “If these bills are of help and I am convinced that they are, then expect some action in that direction,” he said.
The five weapons
The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill sponsored by former Senator Ganiyu Solomon “seeks to provide for the manner in which individuals may, in the public interest, disclose information that relates to unlawful or other illegal conduct or corrupt practices of others; to provide for the protection against victimisation of persons who make these disclosures.”
Senator Solomon first presented the bill to the House of Representatives where he served in 2007 but the bill did not get the expected legislative and executive endorsement until the concurrent passage by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The bill defines the nature of an impropriety that qualifies for disclosure, the procedure for disclosure and the protection that would be given a whistleblower by government agencies.
It aims to give some measure of protection to individuals who give out information on alleged malfeasances in government to security agencies.
The Electronic Transaction Bill, 2011 was sponsored by a former member of the House of Representatives, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta provides the legal framework for electronic transactions in the country. The bill especially becomes relevant for security agencies in the wake of increasing transition of the country from a cash-based economy towards a cashless economy facilitated by electronic channels.
The Electronic Transaction Bill, when signed by the president, is expected to facilitate e-government services and promote transparency in the transaction of government businesses, including procurement and sales of goods and services.
The Nigerian International Financial Centre Bill, aims to produce three separate agencies, namely, the Nigeria International Financial Centre Authority (administrative body); Nigeria Internal Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and the Nigeria International Financial Centre Judicial Authority.
The effect of the three agencies would be to position properly the country at the centre of global finance and as such attract international finance into the economy.
The Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman, 2015 which was also passed by the Senate on June 3 seeks to establish the Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman, as an independent body charged with the responsibility of resolving financial and related disputes in the Nigerian financial services sector.
The establishment of the Office of the Financial Ombudsman is also expected to lead to efficiency in dispute resolution in the financial services sector.
The Convicts and Criminal Records Bill, 2015 aims to among others ensure a proper documentation of convicts and criminals for the purpose of keeping a record of criminals in the country.
President must have political will— Agbakoba
On his part, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, who highlighted ways the president could tackle corruption in the country said he (Buhari) must have the political will.
His words: “The first thing is to strengthen the anti-corruption agencies, he is also to make them independent and well-funded. He is to realign all the anti-corruption agencies into frameworks that can deliver. He would have to look at whether the EFCC, ICPC and Special Fraud Unit are not doing conflicting jobs. What is important is that first of all, he must have the political will, strengthen the anti-corruption agencies, he should also fund them. He should also give the anti-corruption agencies independence to go after anyone, who is found wanting without fear or favour.”
“We need new strong laws, the laws to tackle corruption now are weak, they are also duplicating and confusing and sometimes, the laws are wrong. So, sometimes, we need simple laws that will state who is a corrupt person.”
Continuing, the legal luminary added: “What is important is the political will, strong institutions, allow these institutions to work independently and finally, give them the money to work. Once you have these four things in place, it is very easy to fight corruption. But when you now have an agenda, then, there is a problem. For instance, if you want to go against corruption in the oil industry, if you are president, you must be prepared to allow whatever comes out of the probe to come. But if you want to hide anyone, then, there is a problem. These are the ways you can fight corruption.”