Senator OBA leads debate on Public Complaints Commission Bill
Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA) on Tuesday led a debate on the floor of the Senate on a bill to amend the Public Complaints Commission Act (PCC Act).
Representing Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District, the 48-year-old noted that certain provisions of the extant Act have never been amended since its enactment in 1975.
“These provisions have become outdated and no longer in line with current economic realities, which has necessitated the proposed amendment,” Senator OBA stated.
“This Bill, therefore, seeks to amend some sections of the Public Complaints Commission Act, CAP P 37, LFN 2004 to provide for additional powers for the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), ensure compliance with the Commission’s recommendations by respondents, create awareness and precision on the Commission’s functions, restrictions, and the powers of the National Assembly.”
FIRST REPORTS reports that the Public Complaints Commission was established to investigate complaints against the Federal, State and Local governments, Corporate Organisations and their officials/agencies on matters that bother on administrative injustice and to resolve such matters.
The Bill to amend the PCC Act was read for the first time on 20 April 2021.
The Senator, in his argument, said that over the years, “the PCC has tried to justify its existence despite the meagre resources available at its disposal to execute its core mandate”.
However, he said, “the numerous statutory restrictions (limitations) to the powers of the Commission have greatly impeded its operational effectiveness and public confidence, while making the PCC seem like a toothless lion”.
Illustrating, the legislator said the recent EndSARS protest had proven that there is a need to “remove the restrictions on the powers of the PCC, to inquire and investigate complaints that concern the Nigeria Police Force, the Armed Forces Act, or the Police Act, especially where it involves a non-member of the forces or a civilian in line with democratic norms”.
Speaking further, the lawmaker noted that “under the extant law, when you refuse to honour the commission summon, the fine is N500 or six months imprisonment”. He said that that has not changed since 1975, noting that punishments are usually meant to serve as a deterrent.
“The present fine of the N500 fine is obsolete to current realities. The proposed amendment of the penalty and fines as contained in this Bill, apart from being long overdue will also strengthen the PCC, win and guarantee public confidence, ensure compliance to its recommendations, and operational effectiveness.
“The bill in section 8 therefore, proposes a fine of N500,000 for individuals and N5,000,000 for corporate bodies and or 7 years imprisonment, as punishment for refusing to honour the Commission’s summons,” he said.
Continuing, he said that while “the Bill is mindful of granting excessive powers to the PCC and possible abuse of same, it reiterates the position of the National Assembly as the final arbiter in any matter arising from the Commission”.
“Let me at this point strongly emphasise the need to recalibrate the legal powers of the PCC, to boost its functionality, operational effectiveness, and confidence of the public in Public Complaints Commission FCT, Nigeria,” he added.
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