SNG, lawyers fault Reps’ move for lawmakers immunity

March 11, 2013 by Tunde Odesola with agency report
Festus KeyamoFestus Keyamo

The Save Nigeria Group, human rights lawyers and political groups, on Sunday advised the National Assembly not to pass the bill canvassing immunity for the legislators.

Human rights lawyers, Messrs Fred Agbaje and Festus Keyamo, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders and Igbo Youth Congress described the bill as “provocative”.

News Agency of Nigeria reports the House of Representatives on Thursday passed for the second reading the bill which is seeking immunity for legislators.

The bill seeks to amend Section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution to provide immunity for members of both the federal and state assemblies.

The bill, if passed, would ensure that lawmakers are not held liable or subjected to civil or criminal litigations based on their utterances or decisions taken in the course of parliamentary action.

SNG spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, described the bill as an “aberration” that should be challenged by all Nigerians.

He said, “When Nigerians are talking of removing immunity clause completely from the constitution to checkmate corruption, the legislators are coming up with their own bil.”

He, however, said the group was not surprised by the lawmakers’ move to get immunity for themselves to cover up their acts.

“It is only in Nigeria that legislators will be asking for immunity, which they do not need, except they have plans to contravene the law,” Odumakin added.

In his remarks, Agbaje urged the lawmakers to disregard the bill immediately and address more fundamental issues in the nation.

“This is why there is so much corruption in Nigeria. Rather than putting in place laws that will enhance good governance, the lawmakers are busy thinking of laws that will shield them from corrupt charges.

“This bill is mundane and cannot enhance Nigeria’s national growth,” Agbaje said.

Keyamo said, “The lawmakers are provoking Nigerians. If they pass such a law without constitutional amendment, it will be null and void.

“The constitution guarantees immunity and has covered it all. The bill is inconsistent with the existing law.”

Also, the CACOL Coordinator, Mr. Debo Adeniran, observed that rather than making laws to suit the purpose of those they were representing, the legislators want to constantly compete with the executive

He, therefore, urged the lawmakers to jettison the idea in the interest of peace.

Meanwhile, a former Minister of Youth Development, Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi, has called for the abolition of immunity clause for the nation’s president and governors.

Akinlabi, who has declared his intention to contest Osun State governorship election in 2014, spoke at his Ode-Omu country house, on Sunday.

The representative of Osun-West Senatorial District in the Senate between 2003 and 2007 said “There should be no immunity clause for elective office holders on criminal matters. If any elective office holder is involved in a civil matter, I support immunity cover for him or her.

“But if the allegation has to do with an offence that is criminal in nature, I do not think that immunity clause should cover such an elective post holder.”

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