Like the case of Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (now the incumbent Director-General of the World Trade Organizations) who chronicled years of campaign of calumny against her person including attempts on her life and kidnap of her aged mother in a famous memoir, “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous,” promoters of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFPN) Bill and members of the National Assembly can now attest to the danger of fighting corruption in Nigeria.
They have recently come under sustained disparaging publications intended to dissuade supporters of the Bill and frustrate the passage of the CIFPN 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 Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) 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 civil society organizations hitherto unknown in civil society circles but have been become visible and vicious since the passage of the CIFIPN Bill, no thanks to ICAN’s disguised yet formidable support.
The ordeal of promoters and supporters of the CIFIPN 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 CIFIPN 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 these publications against the passage of the CIFIPN Bill can be summarized and countered as follows –
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 while the operational office is in Kenya. According to the IICFIP, “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, it is our response that one of the cardinal principles of intellectual property rights 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 combination 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:
Fellow, with the assigned initials “FCFP” which means “Fellow, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria”Member ( Associate) with initials “AFP” which means “ Associate Member , Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria”Chartered Member with initials “ CFP” which means “ Chartered Member, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria “Graduate Member, with initials “ GFP,” which means, “Graduate Member, Chartered Institute Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria”;Student Member, with initials “SFP,” which means “Student Member, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria; andHonorary 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 dully passed by the Senate in 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 as such cannot be challenged by an organization such as the IIFCIP which is unrecognized under Nigerian law.
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(CIFPN)” written by the Civil Society Groups for Good Governance (CCGGG) dated 16th March 2021 and addressed to the President of the Senate, His Excellency Distinguished Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawal, the Chief of Staff to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the Attorney General of the Federation and Honorable Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami and the pro-tem President of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative professionals of Nigeria, Dr (Mrs) Ayishetu Enape, 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 feedbacks from Nigerians on the way forward” and threatened that the blowing the matter into a ‘LawanGate’ or ‘NASSGATE’.
The above sentiment as expressed by the CCGGG was equally shared by one Dr Innocent Okwuosa who is currently the 2nd Deputy Vive-President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) in an article titled “Hasty Passage of Forensic Professionals of Nigeria Bill” and syndicated by Dr Okwuosa in series of newspapers including the Guardian 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 the CIFIPN Bill 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 re-introduced in the 9th National Assembly .
It will be recalled that in the 8th Nigerian Senate, the precursor version of the CIFIPN Bill ( SB.584) 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.
Over 200 written memoranda were submitted in support of the passage of the Bill and even all those opposing the Bill today including ICAN, APN, 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 CIFIPN Bill, 2021 by 8th the Senate and concurred by the House of Representatives.
It is equally important to place on the record that since the passage of the precursor version of the CIFIPN Bill, by the 8th National Assembly 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 8th National Assembly was re-introduced and reconsidered in the House of Representative 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.
Alleged Attempt to monopolise 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”