When Akin Alabi and Sina Peller, the founders of Naira Bet and Quilox nightclub took office as part of the 2019 set of lawmakers, they both made a show of highlighting their withdrawal from the businesses that had made them successful businessmen. This was a byproduct of the existence of laws that forbid them from engaging in other practices outside farming.
In 2013, a circular signed by Tope Ajakaiye, Director of Communications and titled “Code of Conduct for Public Officers” sent to all Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government, the Head of Service, Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji, restated the note made at the 37th meeting of the National Council on Establishments that some public servants engage in private practice to the detriment of the services they were employed to render to the public.
Section 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reads:
Restrictions on specified officers: Without prejudice to the generality of Section 5 of this Act, a public officer shall not (a) receive or be paid the emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid the emoluments of any other public office; or (b) except where he is not employed on a full-time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade; but nothing in this paragraph shall prevent a public officer from engaging in farming or participating in the management or running of any farm.
However, things took a new turn when a bill permitting public servants to own and run businesses was sponsored by a lawmaker, Awaji-Inombek Abiante, representing Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State in 2019. On Sunday, the bill was amended by the House of Representatives. It is contained within the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Bill, 2019.
In addition to the amendment, the management seeks to move control of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) from the Presidency to the National Judicial Council after which a Chairman of the bureau would be appointed upon the approval of the National Judicial Council.
According to Abiante, public servants have already breached the law allowing them to farm only by running and owning other businesses and have been deprived of proffering solutions that could aid socio-economic growth in the country.
Public service, either at the local, state, or federal level can boast of officers with great professional acumen who can use their experience during their free periods to enhance the socio-economic development of this country but are denied through the restrictions placed on them in consideration of the principal Act.
The restriction placed on public officers from engaging in any enterprise other than farming and breaking the prison walls of the same as well as putting the appointment and removal of the chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal under the jurisdiction of the National Judicial Council.
He proposed the bill should read:
“Restrictions on specified officers: (a) A public officer shall not receive or be paid the emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid the emolument of any other public office.
“(b) Subject to Section 5 of the principal Act, a public officer may engage in any enterprise(s), provided there is no conflict of interest.”
The bill which passed its second reading on March 17th, 2019 seeks to amend Sections 6, 20(4), and 22(3).