- The Nigerian Senate is in the process of amending the constitution to grant immunity to lawmakers at federal and state levels of government
- The objective of the amendment is to absolve lawmakers of criminal and civil prosecution while carrying out their legislative functions
- Civil society organisations warn that the bill could erode confidence in the law
The anti-corruption campaign by the present administration may soon suffer setback if the Senate succeeds in its plans to amend the 1999 Constitution to protect lawmakers from all criminal and civil cases.
The Guardian reports that the bill by the senate proposing immunity for the lawmakers has been gazzetted and is being given accelerated legislative processing.
The amendment will grant immunity for Nigeria’s more than 1200 lawmakers at federal and state levels of government thereby absolving them of criminal and civil prosecution for at least four years.
The main objective of the amendment is to ensure that leaders and members of the legislature, particularly National and state Assemblies are not subjected to any form of prosecution or legal persecution on account of their actions or statements in the course of carrying out their legislative functions.
The newspaper noted that the body of principal officers of the National Assembly was able to clear the way for the amendment following the withdrawal of the Senate forgery suit by the office of the attorney general of the federation.
In withdrawing the suit against Senate president Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu last October, the ministry of justice filed an application to amend the charges and attached the amended charges.
In the new charges, only the former clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa, and a former deputy clerk, Mr. Ben Efeturi, were listed as accused persons.
The controversial bill was sponsored by Senator Solomon Olamilekan, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) representing Lagos east senatorial district in the Senate.
The proposal on the bill states that the bill is aimed at aimed at strengthening “our democratic institutions (The Legislature) by guaranteeing the freedom of speech and protection of members of Parliament over words spoken and actions taken in the normal course of legislative business.”
It further states that: “No civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives or any officer of the National Assembly in respect of an Act carried out in compliance with a resolution of the House or the exercise or any power conferred on or vested in him by the Standing Orders or the House or by the Constitution.”
However, civil society organisations on Tuesday, December 6, warned that the proposal could erode confidence in the law, especially in the eyes of the global community that sees Nigeria’s political class as being ‘fantastically corrupt.’
“The Bill is simply seeking to give the presiding officers of the Senate protection against being prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the Senate rules forgery case,” those opposed to the amendment said.
Meanwhile, the members of the House of Representatives have summoned the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps scheme Brigadier General Sule Zakari Kazaure.
The lawmakers want the NYSC boss to come and answer questions on the recent deaths of some Youth corps members.
Leadership reports that the Representatives in plenary on Tuesday, December 6 said Kazaure should appear before a joint committees of the House on Justice, Youths Development and Health Services to explain the circumstances which led to the deaths of three corps members at the NYSC orientation camps.