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National Assembly Lawmakers propose immunity for presiding officers of legislature

The lawmakers argued that presiding officers in the legislature ought to enjoy immunity since its applicable to the executive and judiciary.

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Lawmakers, numbering 21, on Saturday, June 18, voted in favour of proposed immunity for presiding officers of the legislature, while 15 voted against it.

The decision was taken at a two day retreat on constitution review, organised by the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review, with the theme, “Towards Ensuring Governance Accountability in Nigerian federalism.’’

The lawmakers argued that presiding officers in the legislature ought to enjoy immunity since its applicable to the executive and judiciary.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Works, Kabiru Gaya, said the essence of immunity was to guard some public office holders against any form of distraction while discharging their duties.

He said, “there are three tiers of government and only two arms enjoy immunity.

“See what is happening to the President of the Senate now. We are not saying the case in court should be stopped.

“But even yesterday we read in the papers that there is a fresh case of forgery of Senate Standing Rule against the presiding officers and some other persons and all is to distabilise us.’’

The Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, also supported the proposal for immunity for all presiding officers in the three arms of government.

However, he argued that such immunity should be limited to civil offences committed by the officers.

According to him, “for criminal issues there should be no immunity but for civil offences there should be immunity. Whoever it is that is involved in a criminal matter should be prosecuted.’’

The Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, proposed that all National Assembly members and Houses of Assembly members should be given immunity.

He explained that elected officers, who were saddled with the responsibility of ensuring good governance should be allowed to carry out their functions without any form of interference.

“I propose that all principal officers of the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate, should enjoy immunity like the executive.

“So all parliamentarians who have criminal cases can be invested but they should serve their punishment after office,’’ he said.

However, the Deputy Senate Leaders, Bala Ibn N’ Allah, argued that Nigerians might misconstrue the proposal for immunity for the legislature to mean that they were arrogating so much power to themselves.

He suggested total removal of immunity from all arms of government, adding: ”`Let us remove immunity from everyone and let there be balance.

“If you give immunity to everybody, a legislator may rape a lady and wait to finish his tenure before being prosecuted because he has immunity,’’ he said.

READ: Saraki hopes new Constitution will be delivered early 2017

In a similar development, the lawmakers agreed on rotation of governorship positions among different ethnic groups in states.

The lawmakers also proposed that independent candidates should be allowed to vie for political offices and voted against diaspora voting.

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