Kudos to National Assembly for passing Forensic and Investigative Professionals’ bill | Dailytrust

Kudos to National Assembly for passing Forensic and Investigative Professionals’ bill

COMMENDATION/APPRECIATION FROM COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS AGAINST CORRUPTION IN PUBLIC SERVICE TO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND A WRITE UP TO ADDRESS SERIES OF PUBLICATIONS AGAINST THE LEADERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR PASSING INTO LAW OF THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC AND INVESTIGATIVE PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA (ESTABLISHMENT, ETC) BILL, 2021

The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday 2nd March 2021 and Wednesday 19th May 2021 at the Plenary Sittings of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively made history by passing into law, the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria Bill, 2021, after it was read for the Third Time in the two Chambers (SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE).

This is in line with the principle and practice of the bi-cameral Legislature as being operated in Nigeria. The passage of this Bill is a clear demonstration of the lawmakers’ patriotism and direct response, targeted at strengthening and re-invigorating national frontiers in the fight against fraud, corruption and cybercrimes in Nigeria. With the passage of this Bill, the 9th National Assembly under the distinguished and able leadership of His Excellency, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, PhD, CON and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiala has shown clearly, its ardent resolve to carry out its legislative functions in line with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This also attests to the fact that the National Assembly is alive to the performance of its complementary role(s) with other arms of Government in the fight against corruption. We applaud the leadership of the National Assembly and congratulates Nigerians. We are happy about the passage into law of the Bill to establish CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC AND INVESTIGATIVE PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA 2021, and encourage the National Assembly to ignore all the petitions sponsored by ICAN and its cohorts against by non-existence civil society organizations and people who have no interest of Nigeria at heart.

Besides, you don’t expect to be praised by corrupt Nigerians who do not like to stop their wrongdoings. Nigeria National Assembly Leadership deserves an award for the credible work done to ensure that Nigeria is armed with the use of forensic for the administration of justice and prosecution of corrupt personalities in Nigeria. Many cases and high profile cases of fraud are mostly thrown out of court for lack of evidence, because of the lack of forensic professionals in Nigeria. It is a unique field that is all-encompassing. Forensic cannot be completed without Criminologists, Lawyers, Sociologist, Information Technologist, Security expert, digital etc.

Whoever understands what the National Assembly has done will rather applaud them and organize awards for them, because they have laid a solid foundation for our children yet unborn, whose futures would have been jeopardised without these bold steps taken by NASS. May the almighty God bless the 8th assembly, and posterity will definitely remember them.

“Fighting Corruption is Dangerous”, promoters of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) Bill and members of the National Assembly as we observed can now attest to the danger of fighting corruption in Nigeria as they have recently come under sustained disparaging publications intended to dissuade supporters of the Bill and frustrate the passage of the CIFIPN Bill -an impactful piece of legislation intended to provide the legal framework for capacity building and professional development of forensic and investigative professionals in Nigeria equipped with modern forensic and investigative techniques in order to effectively wage the war against corruption in the country.

This latest opposition against the passage of the CIFPN Bill including malicious publications in the media against the promoters of the Bill and members of the National Assembly is orchestrated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and other mushroom and non-existing civil society organizations hitherto unknown in civil society circles but have been become visible and vicious since the passage of the CIFPN Bill, no thanks to ICAN’s disguised yet formidable support. The ordeal of promoters and supporters of the CIFPN Bill in the hands of opponents and those who prefer things to be business as usual is enough proof that fighting corruption in Nigeria is very dangerous and further gives credence to the cliché that corruption will always fight back!

Since the CIFPN Bill, 2021 was presented in the 9th Nigerian Senate and eventually passed, a number of publications have been addressed to the leadership of the National Assembly including articles syndicated by opponents in print and electronic media. A detailed analysis of these publications against the passage of the CIFIPN Bill can be summarized and countered as follows –

(I) Alleged Infringement on Letters “CFIP” and “ FCIP” Associated with the IICFIP
In a letter under the heading “RE: OBJECTION TO LEGISLATION Of A BILL THAT INCLUDES CFIP AND FCFIP written by the International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professionals, U.S.A, Inc. (IICFIP) dated 18th February 2021 with reference No. IICFEP/FEB/18/2021 and addressed to the Office of the Senate President and copied the Chief of Staff to the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Speaker House of Representatives and 7 others, the IICFIP opposed the CIFIPN Bill on the sole ground that the use of the letters “CFIP” and “FCIP” in the CIFIPN Bill is tantamount to pirating letters that are already professional designations belonging to the IICEP, a professional body registered in the U.S State of Delaware.

According to the IICFEP, the letters ‘’CFIP’’ and ‘’FCIP’’ should be expunged from the CIFIPN Bill before signing or else the parties to this Bill will be subjected to litigation in the U.S.A or elsewhere where the global trustees of IICFEP may choose”. On this allegation, we have studied the Bill in question and it is our response that one of the cardinal principles of intellectual property right is that trademarks are territorial. This simply means that intellectual property rights are limited to the territory of the country where they have been granted. Indeed, even with globalization and the introduction of international agreements dealing with intellectual property, the principle of territoriality remains a fundamental tenet of intellectual property law. The implication is that for a foreign trademark, that is, letters associated with an international professional body to be accorded protection under Nigerian law, separate registration of such a trademark must be obtained.

For the avoidance of doubt, however, we wish to state that no provision of the CIFIPN Bill contains any of the above combinations of letters “CFIP” or “FCIP”. This is crystal clear going by Clauses 2 and 3 of the CIFIPN Bill which recognizes the following categories of membership with their corresponding initials as privileges of members:
(a) Fellow, with the assigned initials “FCFP” which means “Fellow, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria”
(b) Member (Associate) with initials “AFP” which means “Associate Member, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria”
(c) Chartered Member with initials “CFP” which means “Chartered Member, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria “
(d) Graduate Member, with initials “GFP”, which means, “Graduate Member, Chartered Institute Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria”;
(e) Student Member, with initials “SFP” which means “Student Member, Chartered Institut of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria; and
(f) Honorary Fellow, with initials “ HFFP”, which means, “ Honorary Fellow, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria.

It is therefore clear from the foregoing that there is no trademark violation as alleged by the IIFCIP, U.S.A. Furthermore, all initials associated with the membership of the CIFIPN are fully protected under the Nigerian law as trademarks and the Bill has been duly passed by the Senate in the exercise of its powers under Section 4, Item 49, Part I, Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as Amended and as such cannot be challenged by an organization such as the IIFCIP which is unrecognized under Nigerian law.

(II) Alleged Hasty Passage of the CIFIPN Bill by the Nigerian Senate. In a letter under the heading “ REQUEST FOR IMPARTIALITY IN THE BILL TO ESTABLISH CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC AND INVESTIGATIVE PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA(CIFIPN)” written by the Civil Society Groups for Good Governance (CCGGG) dated 16th March 2021 and addressed to the President of the Senate, the Chief of Staff to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and 2 others, the CSGGG did not identify or challenge any provision of the CIFIPN Bill, but alleged that the Bill was speedily passed “ albeit not fulfilling all requirements for such speedy process”. CSGGG further contends that the CIFIPN Bill seeks to “monopolize forensic investigation sector by shutting out other organizations from operating in order to be the sole organization in the practice, which is against the spirit of capitalism”.

According to CSGGG, “it is for the purpose of breaking the stronghold of monopoly in our various sectors that our government aptly created alternatives to existing bodies like establishing NECO after WAEC, ANAN after ICAN, with EFCC and ICPC. In this regard, the CSGGG claimed that as the “watchman of the society and mouthpiece of the people” it is calling on the Nigerian Senate “to do the needful by subjecting the tyrannical Bill to due process and get feedback from Nigerians on the way forward” The above sentiment as expressed by the CCGGG was equally shared by one Dr Innocent Okwuosa in an article titled, “Hasty Passage of Forensic Professionals of Nigeria Bill” and syndicated by Dr Okwuosa, the 2nd Vice President of ICAN in series of newspapers including the Guardian Newspaper and Leadership Newspaper of 10th March 2021 and 19th March 2021 respectively.

For the purposes of clarity and in the interest of those who are ignorant or deliberately oblivious of the lengthy processes that culminated into the passage of the CIFIPN Bill, we must state here without any fear of contradiction that we have closely followed the evolution of the CIFIPN Bill which has spent over six years in the National Assembly crisscrossing the two chambers of the 8th National Assembly between 2015 and 2019 before it was again reintroduced in the 9thNational Assembly. It will be recalled that in the 8th Nigerian Senate, the precursor version of the CIFIPN Bil was jointly sponsored by Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan (now the President of the Senate) and Senator Andy Emmanuel Uba and it went through first reading on the 21st December 2017 while the Second reading of the Bill took place on the 31st January 2018. After the Seconding Reading, the Bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Establishment which organized a public hearing on 14th March 2018 to collate the views of critical stakeholders and the general public. We are aware that over 200 written memoranda were submitted in support of the passage of the Bill and even all those opposing the Bill today including ICAN, APBN, CCGGG, etc were present and made both written and oral presentations.

At the end of the public hearing, the Committee found that on the preponderance of views and opinions gathered, the general public was in support of the Bill. This report was adopted by the 8th Senate at the plenary leading to the passage of the precursor version of the CIFIPN Bill, 2021 by the Senate and concurred by the House of Representatives of the 8th Assembly. It is equally important to place on record that since the passage of the precursor version of the CIFIPN Bill, by the 8th National Assembly which took place at the twilight of the dissolution of the 8th National Assembly and with electioneering activities in the offing, some Bills were not assented to and had to be re-introduced in the 9th Senate by no less a personality than ranking Senator Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi (Senate Majority Leader) and the Bill went through First, Second and Third Reading to be passed into law. Similarly, in the House of Representatives, the precursor CIFIPN Bill passed in the 8th National Assembly was re-introduced and reconsidered in the House of Representatives in accordance with Order 12, Rule 16, Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

This legislative procedure can be verified by looking at the Order Papers of the House of Representatives for Wednesday, 18th March 2020 and that of Tuesday, July 7th, 2020, respectively. It must also be pointed out that having subjected the Bill to rigorous legislative scrutiny in the 8th Assembly and since the promoters of the Bill had even reviewed the draft Bill including a change of its name from the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors of Nigeria (CIFIAN) to the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) to reflect its full intended objectives and avoid any unintended conflict with any auditing professional body in Nigeria, it is within the prerogative of the 9th National Assembly to abridge its rules to pass the Bill within record even without the need for a public hearing, having conducted a public hearing on this Bill during the 8th National Assembly.

Therefore, the allegation that the CIFIN Bill,2021 was hastily passed by the 9th Senate is not only misleading, baseless, and mischievous but intended to portray the National Assembly in bad light hence must be discountenanced by all well-meaning Nigerians. The Bill was duly passed in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

(III) Alleged Attempt to Monopolize Forensic Investigation Sector By Shutting Out Other Organization. One issue which the CCGGG harped on as the basis for its opposition to the CIFIPN Bill, 2021 is that the passage of the CIFIPN is an attempt to “monopolize forensic investigation sector by shutting out other organizations from operating in order to be the sole organization in the practice, which is against the spirit of capitalism”. According to CSGGG, “it is for the purpose of breaking the stronghold of monopoly in our various sectors that our government aptly created alternatives to existing bodies like establishing NECO after WAEC, ANAN after ICAN, with EFCC and ICPC”.

The above allegation is the most ridiculous of all the arguments against the passage of the CIFIPN Bill, 2021 and it is borne out of ignorance or lack of clear understanding of what the CIFIPN stands for. The CIFIPN is not a business enterprise offering services for profit neither is it a regulatory agency of government hence the allegation of creating a monopoly “in the forensic investigation sector” is totally puerile. The Institute is a professional association concerned with the professional development, discipline and ethical conducts of its members.

As stated earlier, by virtue of Section 4, Item 49 Part I, Second Schedule to the Constitution, only the National Assembly has the powers to recognize certain disciplines as professional occupations and it has exercised this power repeatedly in favour of the CIFIPN bypassing the CIFIPN Bill in 8th and 9th National Assembly. Ironically, all the traducers who openly and vehemently kicked against the passage of the CIFIPN Bill on the grounds that it would amount to “proliferation of professional bodies have now made a U-turn to allege that the passage of the CIFIPN Bill would allow the CIFIPN “monopolize forensic investigation sector “. We are also aware that some of the opponents have gone ahead to introduce Bills in the National Assembly to set up parallel professional forensic investigative bodies even after the passage of the CIFIPN Bill, 2021 by the National Assembly. The reason for all these shenanigans is simple – if they cannot stop the CIFIPN from coming into existence as it is obvious right now, they should at least have their rival professional forensic investigative bodies. CIFIPN of course should not be bothered by their antics since the National Assembly has already given legislative imprimatur to the CIFIPN Bill.

IV. Alleged vested interest of the President of Senate in the CIFIPN Bill One of the most mischievous and unfortunate allegations made against the passage of the CIFIPN Bill is the dubious insinuation by the faceless body – “Initiative For Leadership and Economic Watch in Nigeria” in their letter of 25th May 2021 to the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives wherein they alleged that the President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Ahmad Lawan, CON, possibly used his position as the President of the Senate to rush the passage of the CIFIPN Bill and which according to them amounted to “ breach of the principles guiding his exalted office, as his action makes him guilty of a miscarriage of justice, actions culpable of ambushing and arm-twisting the law using the same public trust that was willingly given him by the people” ( P.1).

On the above, we make haste to state that these allegations are not only false but are intended to disparage the person and office of the number two citizen which is rather unfortunate and unpatriotic. What is clear is that the allegation was borne out of ignorance and mischief if not, the “Initiative For Leadership and Economic Watch in Nigeria” would have known that the President of the Senate is only one person out of 109 Senators who must vote by majority to allow any decision in the Senate including the passage of the CIFIPN. The Senate President is but only the Presiding Officer of the Senate and cannot in any way stampede the other 108 Senators into making decisions that favour his personal interest or that of a particular person or group of persons.

It has never happened in a democratic Senate and it never happened under the leadership of Senate President Ahmad Lawan. It should be added that Senate President Ahmed Lawan stands to gain nothing in person as a Patron of the CIFIPN but rather it is a symbolic gesture of his commitment as an ambassador for the anti-corruption crusade and to the fight corruption that is demanded and nothing more. It must, however, be added that the right to freedom of association is guaranteed under section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

In the case of INEC & Attorney General of the Federation v.Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa & 4 Ors.Suit No. SC.228/2002, UWAIS JSC ( as then was ), stated that the import of section 40 of the Constitution is to allow every person including public office holders and civil servants, the freedom to belong to any political party, or trade union, or any association. There is, therefore, no breach of trust and no evidence was put forward by the accusers to support the alleged breach of trust as such they should be totally ignored.

(V) Letters from ICAN Sponsored and Non-Existing Civil Society Bodies Furthermore, on the various letters addressed to the leadership of the National Assembly with all the baseless and false accusations levelled against the authorities of the Nigerian Parliament, we have discovered that the so-called writers are either sponsored or they do not exist at all. Many of the addresses contained in the said letters have no connection to the organizations they claim to represent. Unfortunately, these letters were copied to reputable institutions of the Federal Government of Nigeria to discredit the leadership of the National Assembly for a task that was well-executed following laid down procedures. In our view and as it is common overseas, a Parliament ought to receive commendations and accolades when it achieves a feat of this magnitude from the so-called civil society and particularly established institutions like ICAN rather than repudiation.

Conclusion
As an international forensic institution that is committed to the growth and expansion of forensic education and practice across the globe, we would like to use this opportunity to commend the two chambers of the Nigerian parliament – the National Assembly for giving the CIFIPN Bill, 2021 the attention it deserves. Since its emergence, we are aware that CIFIPN has impacted positively on the ongoing war against corruption in Nigeria through training and impartation of requisite skills to its members and other investigators from various Government departments and the testimonies have been very encouraging. We also urge the leadership of CIFIPN to remain focused on attaining its overall motivation of ensuring that prosecutors and investigators in Nigeria are in a position to effectively take advantage of modern forensic and investigative techniques to win the war against corruption. We further urge you to remain undaunted in the pursuit of this noble objective against all odds.

Finally, we urge CIFIPN members and prospective members to shun the shenanigans of ICAN and its cohorts. ICAN in particular has a long history of behaving like a spoilt child who is always in the habit of throwing tantrums to dissuade the mother from giving birth to another child for the fear of losing her mother’s total attention. It is globally known that ICAN has over the years challenged the emergence of other professional bodies in Nigeria such as ANAN, CITN, etc and have lost all court cases initiated against such bodies. Like these predecessors, we are confident that the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) is ready and will defeat ICAN and its cohort out of court and even in court.
Thank you.

By Dr Onche Friday, The President, Coalition of Civil Society Groups Against Corruption in Public Service