‘Violent lawmakers must face the law’

PUNCH

July 14, 2013 by ALLWELL OKPI and LEKE BAIYEWU

The Nigerian Bar Association and some civil society groups have said the Tuesday violence at the Rivers State House of Assembly should be investigated and lawmakers and security agents found culpable should be prosecuted.

The groups told SUNDAY PUNCH that if the incident was not dealt with through the due process of the law, it would encourage impunity and destroy the country’s democracy.

Speaking to one of our correspondents, the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, Mr. Monday Ubani, called for criminal prosecution of those found culpable in the fracas.

He said lawmakers enjoy no immunity from being prosecuted for criminal acts.

He described the incident at the House as “a real show of shame,” adding that a lawmaker’s use of a mace to hit others was an “animalistic behaviour” that should not be condoned in a civilised environment.

He said, “If those guys (lawmakers) were wounded, if they sustained injuries and grievous harm on their bodies, it should attract criminal prosecution. They don’t enjoy any immunity being members of the House.

“Being a member does not give you any power to commit criminal acts, especially inflicting grievous harm on the body of fellow members. You don’t have any right to use any instrument to inflict bodily harm. Also, there shouldn’t be any room for importing thugs into the House.

“It is condemnable and those who were involved must be painstakingly investigated and prosecuted.”

Ubani said investigation into the crisis should not be left to the police, adding that the security agency should not be a judge in its own case.

He said the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, had already taken sides in the case by exonerating his officers before setting up an investigation team.

He said, “If somebody is accused of doing a wrong thing, it takes an impartial body to look into it and fish out those culpable or punishable.

“We should have a judicial panel of enquiry to look into what happened in Rivers State and locate those culpable, including the police, the lawmakers and even the thugs brought into the house.”

Similarly, the Coordinator of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, said the lawmakers who fought at the House of Assembly, showed bad example. He said the incident was a pointer that the 2015 general elections could be marred by violence.

He added that the Presidency cannot exonerate itself from the crisis.

“It is obvious that the Presidency has a hand in this whole crisis right from the beginning. This is not unconnected to issues arising from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election. Who would have given the Commissioner of Police the audacity to talk to Amaechi the way he has been doing, calling him a dictator?” Adeniran said.

Also, the National Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, Mr. Mashood Erubami,  said the crisis showed how the Federal Government had been using the police to fight perceived enemies.

“I’m very happy the police played the role they played. Some of us have been agitating for state police and the people that have been opposing it have been saying governors are not mature for it; that they might use it against their enemies. Now we have seen through what happened in Rivers that the Federal Government can also misuse the federal police against its perceived enemies,” he said.

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