There was confusion yesterday over the alleged sacking of the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta.
Nta was reportedly sent on compulsory leave on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, as a prelude to removing him from office.
But it was learnt that Nta cannot be removed from office without recourse to the Senate. Nta who was appointed to chair the anti-corruption agency in acting capacity in 2011, was later confirmed by the Senate in 2012 for a five-year tenure.
Reports claimed he was asked to proceed on a forced leave in a letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.
Official confirmation from the office of the SGF could not be obtained at press time, but internal sources denied the report, saying the SGF had not had any such official correspondence with the ICPC helmsman.
“We are not aware, none of the correspondence from the SGF to the ICPC at our disposal now bears such information. The office did not issue any letter and you can seek further clarification. The office has not asked him to proceed on terminal leave.
“And on removing him from office, the truth is that the man cannot be removed like that without the consent of the Senate, except for gross verified misconduct. It is not even possible to just remove him without the consent of the Senate,” the source said.
To buttress the point, Section 3 sub 8 of the ICPC Act 2000 says: “Notwithstanding the provisions of section 3 (7) of this Act, the chairman or any member of the commission may at any time be removed from the office by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be removed for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct.”
The five-year tenure of Nta as stipulated in the establishing Act will expire in November 2017, contrary to the reports that his period in office will end in 2016.
According to other sources, the Presidency is not satisfied with the accomplishments of the ICPC boss so far, besides the widely held belief that the agency is not discreetly following up corruption cases against some former state governors. It was also alleged that the cases of heads of other agencies of government are not well handled by the commission.
Another source at the SGF office said: “It is not possible to remove him with a letter from the SGF. It is two ways, either the president sends a request to the Senate that he should be removed, which has to be ratified by two-thirds majority of the upper chamber, or the man retires himself, by virtue of the Act. So the circulated report is baseless.”
The ICPC denied receiving any letter from the SGF sacking its chairman.A statement by a senior official of the commission, Edet Ufot on behalf of the spokesperson Rasheedat Okoduwa, noted that the commission had contacted relevant authorities to take action concerning the matter.