Knocks for NASS over planned immunity for principal officers, others

MEMBERS of the National Assembly have received more knocks for proposing the inclusion of their principal officers among beneficiaries of the immunity clause in the 1999 Constitution as amended.

A former Anambra State governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, ex-chairman of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos State, Mr Tony Ubani and a former governorship candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in Ogun State, Mr Lanre Banjo, took a swipe at the lawmakers for contemplating such idea at all.

Dr Ezeife wondered where the lawmakers derived the idea when such concept neither existed nor was in practice in any political system similar to what obtained in Nigeria.

Citing the United States, which practices a presidential system of government like Nigeria, the former governor asked if members of the congress enjoyed such immunity.

“We have models of older systems that we are following. Are the leaders of the congress covered by the immunity clause?” Dr Ezeife queried.

The proposal sparked off a row in the House of Representatives last week, when the issue came up on the floor of the House before it was referred to the House Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.

One of the key resolutions of delegates to the 2014 national conference was that the immunity clause in the constitution should be expunged from the Nigerian constitution.

The immunity clause in Section 308 insulates the president, vice president, as well as governors and their deputies from arrest and prosecution for criminal and civil matters while in office.

Commenting on the proposal amendment designed to include the beneficiaries of the immunity clause, Mr Ubani, described the action of the lawmakers as “unacceptable, primitive and clearly an affront against the will of Nigerians.”

He added: “We are even saying that, that of the executives be removed and here they are trying to include the legislators. They are comedians,” the legal practitioner emphasised.

On his part, Banjo accused the lawmakers of harbouring a hidden agenda, which all Nigerians must resist before it was too late.

He opined that the move by the lawmakers on the issue was “ worse than engaging in a coup for which the Turkish valiantly trooped out at 1.13 a.m. to flush out the coup plotters.

“If the Nigerian society wants to prove that this is a lucid society, everyone that votes for that law should not be re-presented by his/her political parties and neither should the society allow such selfish people to represent them by voting them into power.

“If this law passes, it would be a total contradiction and destruction of what President Buhari stands for if he signs it into law.  The president should veto it and allow the members of the National Assembly to override the veto so that we can identify those legislators Nigerians would call to question at the appropriate time. In civilised world, there are laws that care for poor families, especially nursing mothers, provide funds for helicopters to lift citizens from the scenes of accidents, provides housing for single family mother, among others. Nigerians never refer to that and those in the National Assembly closed their eyes to that because that is to the advantage of the poor,” the former governorship candidate said.