The process for the review of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) Act 2000 began in Abuja Wednesday as the Nigerian Law Reforms Commission (NLRC) brought together stakeholders to produce a draft amendment to the law enacted 13 years ago to fight corruption.
One of the areas being considered for amendment is Section 52, which empowers the Chief Justice of Nigeria to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the President or Vice-President or a Governor of Deputy Governor of any state upon an allegation made against them on offences relating to corrupt practices.
NLRC said the provision was ambiguous and had proposed an amendment that clearly stated the powers to be exercised by the CJN.
The draft also jerks up fine payable by offenders upon conviction for infraction of any provisions of the Act.
The commission said most of the fines and penalties provided in the Act were too low to serve as effective deterrents to potential offenders and also did not reflect the present value of the naira.
The commission also considered the composition of the membership of the ICPC established under the Act and concluded that some of the members had no business being there.
The commission also proposed that section 26(3) of the Act, which makes it mandatory for courts to deliver judgment in corruption cases within 90 days from the commencement of prosecution be deleted since the Supreme Court had since declared it unconstitutional.
However, one of the controversial suggestions was made by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) who had been handling some of the ICPC cases.
He advised that the power to investigate and prosecute corruption cases be taken away from the police.
Citing his experience in courts, he said that police often left a wide gap in their investigation, which suspects often exploited to get out of the hook.
In the proposed amendments, the NLRC also recommended that the powers of police investigators to enter into premises and conduct a search be restricted. These powers are contained in Section 36 (1) of the Act.
"The commission is of the opinion that this power is too wide and should be restricted to entry into the relevant premises and to seizure of only any article which is relevant to the commission of the offence," the commission said.