The House of Representatives moved on Wednesday to strengthen the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to fight corruption by proposing fresh amendments to the EFCC Act, 2004.
Among others, lawmakers want to insulate the anti-graft agency from the influence of the Presidency, enhance its financial autonomy, prescribe tougher penalties for stealing public money and create a special court for speedy trial of cases.
Four consolidated bills seeking to further empower the commission, passed second reading at a session presided over by the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, in Abuja.
The bills were co-sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Financial Crimes, Mr. Kayode Oladele; Mr. Bassey Ewa; Mr. Oladipupo Olatunde; and Mr. Bede Ucehenna-Eke.
One of the key amendments seeks to remove the power of appointing the chairman of the EFCC from the President, to be vested directly in the hands of Nigerians.
Under the extant provisions, the President appoints the chairman and forwards the name to the Senate for approval.
But, in the new proposal, which the House described as “more stringent” in appointing or removing the chairman, members of the public are to appoint the commission’s chairman.
Leading the debate on the proposal, Ewa explained, “This amendment will open up the EFCC so that the President will not be the sole person to either remove or appoint the chairman.
“In this new proposal, it will require a petition from the public to the National Assembly for a resolution.
“This resolution, when passed, will be forwarded to the President. Mr. President shall within one month, either accept the resolution or reject it.
“The National Assembly reserves the power to override his veto of the resolution.”
Ewa noted that this was to guard against the current practice whereby the President would want the chairman to be removed if he was not comfortable with the officer.