CCT’S Ex Parte Order Of ‘Step Aside” Against Public Officer & Resulting Outcry: My Take
By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
There have been current trends in the prosecution and trials of suspects and defendants before the Code of Conducts Tribunal-herein after referred to as the CCT- as a result of its issuance of ex parte order against any defendant (public officer) against whom complaints of breaching the Code of Conducts for Public Officers as provided by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution- have been made through the Code of Conducts Bureau, by ordering such person/defendant to step aside off office being occupied pending the final determination of the complaints against him or her. This current trend has generated public outcry with those in support and those in opposition of such order. This paper does not aim at assessing or arguing the right or wrong or right of the issuance of the order or the right or the wrong of the Defendant appearing before the CCT rather it aims at sharing what I think as recommendation for a manifest justice in the whole affairs.
The Code of Conduct Bureau-herein after referred to as the CCB- is established pursuant to Part I of the Third Schedule of the Constitution to carry out such powers under Paragraph 3 of the Part, that is, to enforce compliance with the provisions of the Code of Conducts for Public Officers and to refer complaints on its breach to the CCT, among other powers. Furthermore, the Code of Conducts are as provided by the Part I to the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution. The powers of the CCT are as stated in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution. Also, those public officers concerned are as provided in Part II of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, except Chairmanship or membership of ad hoc tribunals, commissions or committees. See: Paragraph 19 of the Part I of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Furthermore, ‘misconduct’ under the code of conducts means breach of the Oath of Allegiance or Oath of Office of a member or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts to bribery or corruption or false declaration of assets and liabilities. See: Paragraph 19 of the Part I of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
Furthermore, a close check on the provisions of the Code of Conducts Bureau and Tribunal Act, 2004, reveals that there is no such power that empowers the CCT to issue an ex parte order against a public servant who is standing trial or to order such person to step aside off the public office being occupied by such person. Even the Rules of Procedure applicable to the said CCT as provided under the Code of Conducts Bureau and Tribunal Act, 2004, does not make provisions for such ex parte Order to order such person to step aside off the public office. Nevertheless, a check on the Interpretation Act, 2004, in section 10(2) of the Act provides that ‘An enactment which confers power to do any act shall be construed as also conferring all such other powers as reasonably necessary to enable that act to be done or are incidental to the doing of it’. So, this could (in my humble view) be relied upon to the interpretation that the CCT may issue an ex parte order against a public servant who is standing trial or to order such person to step aside off the public office being occupied by such person.
On one hand, one would wonder why the CCT would order such public officer ex parte to step aside pending the final determination of the complaints against him or her?! At best, a fast track hearing or trial could be embarked upon rather than such quick ex parte order! The issue that I may say that is responsible for this quick ex parte order (from my experiences) might be due to the prejudicial tool undertaken by some persons to the defeat of the interest of justice by causing unnecessary delays and obnoxious and unnecessary applications towards the abuse of the process of the court by even appealing an ordinary ruling on interlocutory application for e.g. to do anything (even if such act is unnecessary) up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria (after a number of years at the Court of Appeal), then return back to the substantive proceedings, then go back to file another unnecessary interlocutory application, then appeal up to the Supreme Court again and continues such act again and again until his or her unjust motives are achieved! Some of these persons have always been having their ways while the interest of justice has to suffer and no one challenged or complained against them and to prevent such abuse of court’s process! They delay litigation process for as long as more than even ten (10) years (with the aid of some corrupt lawyers too of course, who think that they are very smart!). Justice continues to cry each time! In fact, the public officer in this case would have even long left office or concluded his or her tenure while the prosecution continues and thereby rendering whatever decision that the CCT would take in the long run academic and or nugatory. This is what I think is responsible for all these quick ex parte to step aside off office pending the final determination of the trial before the CCT. This is in my humble view (with due respect), is the smart way devised by the CCT too to be smart and to outsmart such act that would avert the cause of justice, I might be wrong, though!
Also, on the other hand is the argument that why could the CCT not have fast tracked the trial to enable the public officer to defend himself or herself if not admitting the complaints against him or her?! Why not allows such person to defend himself or herself against the allegation in accordance with section 36(5) of the Constitution which provides for his or her presumption of innocence until having been found guilty by the competent court (or tribunal as the case might be)?! This is where it is the case against the CCT.
Nevertheless, what I recommend here in this paper is a situation where law and the procedures would be reduced in the trials before the CCT just as it is fast tracked in electoral matters including the appeals arising from such trials up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria so that for instance, within not more than thirty (30) days (see: for instance, section 285(6) and (7) of the Constitution (as amended), the entire trials are concluded before the CCT and another thirty (30) days before the Court of Appeal and final thirty (30) days before the Supreme Court of Nigeria (all making a total period of ninety (90) days in all), if that would serve justice to both the CCT and the Defendant standing trial and no prejudice would continue to cause a serious outcry from the members of the public and the justice in such case would be manifest to have been done.
Finally, I humbly recommend a thorough thought on the recommendation made by this paper for a speedy trial in the proceedings before the CCT as they concern any public officer rather than a quick ex parte order that generate public’s outcry and a situation where the trial becomes nugatory or academic due to a prolonged divisive abuse of court’s process undertaken by the defendant by causing unnecessary applications and appeals to delay trials or proceedings or justice in order to escape manifest justice, having known that his or her hands are not clean.