A civil society group known as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has decried attempts by the leadership of the National Assembly to shield themselves from prosecution, saying the action was unlawful.
We had earlier reported that following the travails of Senate President Bukola Saraki in the hands of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the lawmakers are contemplating an amendment to the Constitution towards ensuring immunity for heads of the three arms of government.
When the process of the constitution amendment is completed, those set to benefit from the immunity are the Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, his deputy and the Chief Justice of the Federation, CJN.
But in a statement by the executive director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said “it is a huge setback for transparency and accountability and the rule of law” that the leaders of the National Assembly were seeking immunity from prosecution.
“The same privileged and powerful leaders of parliament who regularly make laws that consign ordinary, powerless Nigerians to prison for even trivial offences, yet want to establish elite immunity to protect themselves from any consequences for serious crimes of corruption and money laundering. This is called breaking the law.
“SERAP notes that this initiative by the leaders of the National Assembly is coming at a time countries like Guatemala has voted unanimously to strip their president of immunity from prosecution for corruption”.
“The message the leadership of the National Assembly is sending to us is clear: in Nigeria, powerful and influential actors must not be and are not subject to the rule of law. It’s simply not proper for lawmakers to be the chief advocates of immunity for corruption”, the group noted.
According to SERAP, the action was a clear breach of public trust and a form of political corruption for the parliamentarians to abuse their legislative powers.
The statement stressed that it was an unacceptable proposition as it gave the impression that both the Senate president and the Speaker of the House and others were above the law.
The group said that, “Public officials who are genuinely committed to the well-being of the state and its people, and to the establishment of an effective and functioning system of administration of justice, should have absolutely nothing to fear”.
SERAP declared that it “will work with other members of the civil society to vigorously challenge this gift of immunity against corruption and blatant breach of public trust by the National Assembly”.