Senators, States’ Assembly Speakers Propose Immunity From Prosecution For Saraki, Others

Bukola-SarakiSenators and speakers of some state Houses of Assembly on Saturday proposed immunity for presiding officers of the legislative arm of government.
The decision was taken at a two-day retreat on constitution review, organised by the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review, with the theme, “Towards Ensuring Governance Accountability in Nigerian federalism”.
If the proposal scales through and is inserted in the ongoing amendment of the 1999 Constitution, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who is being prosecuted for false and anticipatory assets declaration as well as alleged forgery, may be let off the hook.
His deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, may also have the forgery case against him dropped.
It was learnt that 21 lawmakers voted in favour of the proposal while 15 voted against.
The lawmakers argued that presiding officers in the legislature ought to enjoy immunity since the other two arms of government – the executive and judiciary – were enjoying it.
In his argument in support of the proposal, Chairman Senate Committee on Works, Kabiru Gaya, said the essence of immunity was to guard some public office holders against any form of distraction while discharging their duties.
He said, “there are three tiers of government and only two arms enjoy immunity.
“See what is happening to the President of the Senate now. We are not saying the case in court should be stopped.
“But even yesterday we read in the papers that there is a fresh case of forgery of Senate Standing Rule against the presiding officers and some other persons and all is to destabilise us”.
In the same vein, the Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, who is being tried for allegedly aiding the Boko Haram sect, supported the proposal.
He, however, opined that such immunity should be limited to civil offences committed by the presiding officers.
According to him, “for criminal issues there should be no immunity but for civil offences there should be immunity. Whoever it is that is involved in a criminal matter should be prosecuted”.
In his submission, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, proposed that all National Assembly members and Houses of Assembly members should enjoy immunity.
According to Akpabio, as elected officers saddled with the responsibility of ensuring good governance, lawmakers should be allowed to carry out their functions without any form of interference.
“I propose that all principal officers of the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate, should enjoy immunity like the executive.
“So all parliamentarians who have criminal cases can be investigated but they should serve their punishment after office”, he said.
However, the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn N’Allah, argued that Nigerians might misconstrue the proposal for immunity for the legislature to mean that they were arrogating so much power to themselves.
He, therefore, suggested total removal of immunity from all arms of government, adding: “Let us remove immunity from everyone and let there be balance.
“If you give immunity to everybody, a legislator may rape a lady and wait to finish his tenure before being prosecuted because he has immunity”, N’Allah said.
(NAN)

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