Senate moves to strip Buhari, Osinbajo of immunity
Presidents and vice presidents in Nigeria can't be prosecuted whilst in office. The senate wants to change that.
If the lawmakers have their way, President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, governors and their deputies will lose their immunity from criminal trial while they are in office.
The bill to end this immunity is being sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), as one of a raft of proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution.
Should it go through, it will mean that serving presidents, vice presidents, governors and their deputies can be tried for alleged criminal offences.
At the moment, these categories of public office holders cannot be tried in court while they are in office.
The framers of the constitution inserted this section (308) into the statutes to prevent these political office holders from being distracted by litigation whilst in office.
Omo-Agege’s bill provides for qualification of the immunity clause to exclude immunity for public officers referred to in Section 308, from criminal liability where the offence involves misappropriation of funds belonging to the federal, state or local governments and if they are alleged to have deployed thugs to foment violence.
What the law currently says
Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 reads as follows:
(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, but subject to subsection (2) of this section-(a) no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office;
(b) a person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise; and
(c) no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued: Provided that in ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this section applies, no account shall be taken of his period of office.
(2) The provisions of subsection (I) of this section shall not apply to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party.
(3) This section applies to a person holding the office of President or Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor; and the reference in this section to “period of office” is a reference to the period during which the person holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office.
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