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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Read How Saraki Trial Causes Rowdy Session In House of Reps over immunity move for Saraki, Dogara, Others

Members of the House of Reps broke into a rowdy session on Tuesday as tempers rose over a proposed move to give immunity against prosecution for presiding officers of the National Assembly.

It also included presiding officers of State Houses of Assembly.

The immediate beneficiaries of the proposal, which came in the form of a bill, would be Bukola Saraki, Yakubu Dogara, Ike Ekweremadu and Yussuff Lasun.

All the officials have a four-year tenure running till 2019, a period in which the National Assembly would have also concluded fresh amendments to the 1999 Constitution.

Lawmakers all over the world do not have immunity from prosecution. Should Nigeria be different?

The rowdiness started after the House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, introduced an amendment to Section 308 of the constitution to include presiding officers of the National Assembly among political office holders covered by the immunity clause.

The proposal by Ogor, a Peoples Democratic Party lawmaker from Delta State, read, “Section 308 (3) of the ‘Principal Act’ is altered by adding the words Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, immediately after the word, Vice-President, and also to include Speaker of a State House of Assembly, Deputy Speaker of a State House of Assembly immediately after the word, Deputy Governor.”

Defending his proposal, Ogor stated that the legislature needed as much protection as the executive.

However, he had hardly rounded off his debate when murmuring began on the floor.

House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila noted that two things were wrong with the amendment, the “timing” and the integrity of the National Assembly.

The lawmaker from Lagos said National Assembly existed to serve the interest of Nigerians at all times.

He said the mood of Nigerians at this time did not support immunity for any lawmaker.

Gbajabiamila added, “Nigerians do not support this bill because of the timing. The assumption will be that we are making this amendment because of what is happening in the Senate.”

He said he did not know of any country in the world where officers of the legislature enjoyed immunity.

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