Duties And Powers Of The Public Complaints Commission | Adedunmade Onibokun

Duties And Powers Of The Public Complaints Commission | Adedunmade Onibokun

 On 16th October, 1975 the Murtala Muhammed
administration enacted Decree 31, which provided for the creation of the Public
Complaints Commission (PCC). The Decree was based on the recommendations of the
Udoji Report, following the government’s desire to improve the standard of
living of the generality of Nigerians.

By virtue of Section 315 of the Constitution, which provides
for the adoption of existing laws prior to the commencement of the 1999
Constitution, the PCC became known as the PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION ACT, CAP
P37 LFN 2004.

The purpose of the Act is in its preamble where it’s
described as, “an Act to establish the Public Complaints Commission with wide
powers to inquire into complaints by members of the public concerning the
administrative action of any public authority and companies or their officials,
and other matters ancillary thereto”.  

Section 1 of the Act, establishes the Public Complaints
Commission (“the Commission”) which consists of a Chief Commissioner
and such number of other Commissioners as the National Assembly may, from time
to time, determine.

Sections 2 and 3 of the Act provides for the composition and
appointment of the Chief Commissioner and other staff of the commission.
Section 2(1), particularly provides that the National Assembly shall appoint
the Chief Commissioner and other commissioners.

The duties and powers of Commissioners
under the PCC Act is outlined in Section 5 and is hereby produced below –

– All Commissioners shall be responsible to the National Assembly but the Chief
Commissioner shall be responsible for coordinating the work of all other

   A Commissioner shall have power to investigate either on his own
initiative or following complaints lodged before him by any other person, any
administrative action taken by-

(a)    any Department or Ministry of the
Federal or any State Government;

(b)    any Department of any local government
authority (howsoever designated) set up in any State in the Federation;

(c)    any statutory corporation or public
institution set up by any Government in Nigeria;

(d)    any company incorporated under or pursuant
to the Companies and Allied Matters Act whether owned by any Government
aforesaid or by private individuals in Nigeria or otherwise howsoever; or

(e)    any officer or servant of any of the
aforementioned bodies.

   For the purposes of this Act-

the Chief Commissioner may
determine the manner by which complaints are to be lodged;

(b)    any Commissioner may decide in his
absolute discretion whether, and if so, in what manner, he should notify the
public of his action or intended action in any particular case;

(c)    any Commissioner shall have access to
all information necessary for the efficient performance of his duties under
this Act and for this purpose may visit and inspect any premises belonging to
any person or body mentioned in sub-section (2) of this section;

(d)    every Commissioner shall ensure that
administrative action by any person or body mentioned in subsection (2) will
not result in the commitment of any act of injustice against any citizen of
Nigeria or any other person resident in Nigeria and for that purpose he shall
investigate with special care administrative acts which are or appear to be –

    contrary to any law or regulation;

  mistaken in law or arbitrary in the ascertainment of fact;

   unreasonable, unfair, oppressive or inconsistent with the general
functions of administrative organs;

  improper in motivation or based on irrelevant considerations;

  unclear or inadequately explained; or

  otherwise objectionable; and

(e)    a Commissioner shall be competent to
investigate administrative procedures of any court of law in Nigeria.

   Where concurrent complaints are lodged with more than one
Commissioner, the Chief Commissioner shall decide which Commissioner shall deal
with the matter and his decision thereon shall be final.

   All Commissioners and all the staff of the Commission shall
maintain secrecy in respect of matters so designated by reason of source or
content, so however that a Commissioner may, in any report made by him,
disclose such matters as in his opinion ought to be disclosed in order to
establish grounds for his conclusions and recommendations.

In the exercise of the powers conferred upon a Commissioner by this
section, the Commissioner shall not be subject to the direction or control of
any other person or authority.

It shall be the duty of anybody or person required by a
Commissioner to furnish information pursuant to subsection (3) (c) of this section to comply
with such requirement not later than thirty days from receipt thereof.

restrictions to the powers of the PCC are contained in Section 6, which
provides that the –

   A Commissioner shall not investigate any matter-

is clearly outside his terms of reference;

(b)    that is pending before the National Assembly,
the Council of State or the President;

(c)    that is pending before any court of
law in Nigeria;

(d)    relating to anything done or purported
to be done in respect of any member of the armed forces in Nigeria or the
Nigeria Police Force under the Armed Forces Act, or the Police Act, as the case
may be;

(e)    in which the complainant has not, in
the opinion of the Commissioner, exhausted all available legal or
administrative procedures;

(f)    relating to any
act or thing done before 29 July 1975 or in respect of which the complaint is
lodged later than twelve months after the date of the act or thing done from
which the complaint arose;

(g)   in which the complainant has no
personal interest.

Upon completion of its investigations, the PCC Commissioner
may recommend to the appropriate person or responsible administrative ageny.

Section 8 of the Act mandates strict secrecy on matters
brought before the Commission and prescribes a penalty of a jail time and/or
fine for anyone who breaches the section. Section 9, on the other hand,
empowers the commission to summon persons to give evidence or appear before it.

Section 10 grants immunity to Commissioners and provides that
“No Commissioner shall be liable to be sued in any court of law for any act
done or omitted to be done in the due exercise of his duties under or pursuant
to this Act.

Generally, the PCC has not lived up to its mandate and claims
by the Chief Commissioner states that the Commission needs finance to fund its operations.

Adedunmade Onibokun 
@Adedunmade is a lawyer and he writes from Lagos