Untouchables – House Of Reps Plan Immunity For Members

If the House of Representatives has its way, legislators would be immune from civil and criminal prosecution for acts committed in the course of discharging their official functions.

This is without prejudice to provisions of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act which provides for a certain level of immunity from civil and, or criminal proceedings against legislators.

The process to seek further immunity came up during the plenary session of the House on Thursday after two separate bills were combined into one and presented for debate by members.

The sponsors of the bills, Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Ali Ahmed and Ralph Igbokwe were of the opinion that previous experiences had shown that the Privileges Act contradicted section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which they said made its implementation almost impossible.

The Bill seeks to amend sections of the existing Act to make it conform with international best practices.

The bill, if passed into law, would shield lawmakers from court proceedings, be it civil or criminal, being brought against them with regards to written or spoken words during plenary sessions, or during committee proceedings.

It seeks to ensure that such actions shall not be questioned in any court or place outside the parliament.

Ahmed said the one-clause amendment would “guarantee the immunity of legislative houses” as is the practice around the world.

He explained that it was only the legislature that had no such privilege in the country, as the executive and judiciary were currently enjoying it.

The legislator said such immunity, as enshrined in the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act, has been declining since 2007, adding that there was the need to incorporate this in the constitution.

The Herald NG

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