Why National Assembly leaders don’t deserve immunity – Sagay, Ozekhome, Falana
Some senior lawyers in the country have kicked against moves by the National Assembly to confer immunity on their leaders.
The Herald can report that a bill to confer immunity on the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, their deputies and Speakers of State Assemblies and their deputies scaled first reading at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Reacting to the bill, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), described it as unacceptable, saying that the move would weaken the nation’s war on corruption.
“I think that is unacceptable because it is going to weaken our war against corruption. Already, we have those statutorily exempted by the Constitution.
“It’s unacceptable to extend immunity beyond what we already have. We have to wait eight years for governors, allowing them to misbehave as they like before any action can be taken against them.
“Anyone who has a clean record should not be thinking of immunity. They shouldn’t,” he said.
Another senior lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) called for the immediate “killing” of the bill, noting that it was not in the nation’s interest.
“The bill is another way of asking for legislative immunity against legislative rascality and lawlessness. It is a bill asking for immunity against transparency and accountability.
“It is a bill asking to be shielded from criminality even when a crime is committed. It is a bill seeking to be regarded as a sacred cow, not accountable to anybody, including the Judiciary.
“If it were not for selfish purposes, if it were altruistic and nationalistic, or because they want to be at par with the Executive, why have they not also brought in the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who heads the third arm of government under Section 6 of the Constitution?
“The bill is an insult to our collective intelligence.
“It undermines our humanity as a country, disrespects us as Nigerians and makes the tail want to wag the dog. It is unacceptable, insulting, narcissistic, egregious, insidious and invidious,” Ozekhome said.
Popular human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) described the bill as illegal and unconstitutional.
“The bill will soon be defeated on the floor of the House because it is illegal and unconstitutional.
“Apart from the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors who are entitled to immunity under Section 308 of the Constitution, no other public official or citizen is entitled to be excluded from prosecution for corruption or other criminal offences.
“Only a constitutional amendment can confer immunity on any other group of Nigerians.
“I can assure you that the amendment will not be approved by Nigerians. It was tried in the past but it was popularly rejected,” he noted.