Currently there is a Bill for an Act to Alter Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Extend Immunity to Cover Presiding Officers of Legislative Institutions’ being considered in the House of Representatives is uncalled for. The bill already passed for second reading part of the bill seeking to grant immunity to principal officers of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly. I don’t think those at National Assembly and 36 state Houses of Assembly need any immunity.
For long Nigerians has been clamouring for the removal of immunity especially on criminal matters on president, vice president, governors and deputy governors. It was one of those recommendations that attracted the consensus opinion of all the delegates from all over the country And that was overwhelmingly agreed on at the 2014 National Conference
What further immunity are the lawmakers looking for? Is immunity for principal officers of legislative institutions a major concern of the country presently? I can only say It’s a setback for the rule of law and slap to the faces ordinary, powerless Nigerians. It could be recalled that on January 27, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Legislative House Power and Privileges Act to provide protection for decisions taken by members of parliament in the country.
The law grants the Legislative Houses in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly immunity from litigation for actions taken in plenary or committee proceedings of the House or committee. The law also strengthens the power of the Legislators to carry out their Law making functions. These include power to summon any person to appear before her, give evidence, as well as power of an officer of the legislative House to arrest any person who commits an offense against the Act. This Privileges Act granting immunity to state and federal lawmakers in Nigeria. So what kind of immunity Hon Olusegun Odebunmi wants for both National Assembly and those of the state Houses of Assembly leaders.
I am not aware of anybody who has been sued for his activities on the floor as senator, member of the House of Representatives or member of the House of Assembly. May be the sponsors of the bill didn’t understand what happened to Saraki. If he remember, he were accused of not declared his assets at the end of his tenure as a governor not as a senate president. Base on that federal government dragged him before Code of Conduct tribunal , chief Justice of Nigeria was dragged there; any judge can be taken there and civil servants can also be drag for not violating the act.
Why the sponsors of the bill is saying now that the case should have waited until he finished serving as a principal officer of the National Assembly that is chiefly. So, to save any legislative officer from any pending case is misplaced completely. If it relates to his job as a legislator, he is already immune. If it relates to something he was doing outside there should be no immunity.
As we all knows this immunity has greatly contributed to the highest impunity committed by those elected leaders as the constitution shield them from any prosecution not matter the level of injustice muted to their peoples.
Instead of our lawmakers voted to strip this immunity like what Guatemala Congress has voted unanimously to strip their president of immunity from prosecution for corruption our own lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction trying to grant themselves an immunity.
Nigerians are against any act or any bill seeking to confer immunity on lawmakers already with Legislative House Power and Privileges Act provide protection for decisions taken by members of parliament in the country. A true legislator does not need that. All he has to do is to follow his conscience, speak conscientiously and he will be okay. it is an abuse of legislative privilege.
Providing immunity for presiding officers is tantamount to ripping up the constitution. It’s a blatant assault on the rule of law and breach of public trust. It’s a form of political corruption for the parliamentarians to abuse their legislative powers, intended for use in the public interest but instead for personal advantage.
Dukawa media practitioner and public commentator base in Kano and can be reach at ABBA DUKAWA