Sep 8, 2018

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 -

(1) - All Commissioners shall be responsible to the National Assembly but the Chief Commissioner shall be responsible for coordinating the work of all other Commissioners.

(2)    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.

(3)    For the purposes of this Act-

(a     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 –

(i)     contrary to any law or regulation;

(ii)    mistaken in law or arbitrary in the ascertainment of fact;

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

(iv)   improper in motivation or based on irrelevant considerations;

(v)    unclear or inadequately explained; or

(vi)   otherwise objectionable; and

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

(4)    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.

(5)    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.

(6)    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.

(7)    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.

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

(1)    A Commissioner shall not investigate any matter-

(a)       that 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