11th March, 2013
The Save Nigeria Group (SNG), human rights lawyers and political groups, on Sunday advised the National Assembly not to pass the bill canvassing immunity for the legislators.
The lawyers, Messrs. Fred Agbaje and Festus Keyamo, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) and Igbo Youth Congress (IYC) described the bill as provocative.
The House of Representatives on March 7 passed for the second reading the bill which is seeking immunity for legislators.
The bill seeks to amend Section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution to provide immunity for members of both the federal and state assemblies.
The bill, if passed, would ensure that lawmakers were not held liable or subjected to civil or criminal actions based on their utterances or decisions taken.
The SNG spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, described the bill as an “aberration” which should be challenged by all Nigerians.
“When Nigerians are talking of removing immunity clause completely from the constitution to checkmate corruption, the legislators are coming up with their own bil.”
He, however, said that the group was not surprised by the lawmakers’ move to get immunity for themselves to cover up their acts.
“It is only in Nigeria that legislators will be asking for immunity which they do not need, except they have plans to contravene the law.”
In his remarks, Agbaje urged the lawmakers to disregard the bill immediately and address more fundamental issues in the nation.
“This is why there is so much corruption in Nigeria.
“Rather than putting in place laws that will enhance good governance, the lawmakers are busy thinking of laws that will shield them from corrupt charges.
“This bill is mundane and cannot enhance Nigeria’s national growth,” Agbaje said.
He said that such a bill would only engender disloyalty among Nigerians.
“If the lawmakers have no skeleton in their cupboards, they will not be thinking of such a rash law in this era of democracy and freedom of information,” he said.
Reacting to the bill, Keyamo said: “The lawmakers are provoking Nigerians. If they pass such a law without constitutional amendment, it will be null and void.
“The constitution guarantees immunity and has covered it all. The bill is inconsistent with the existing law.
“Apart from the legal side, on the moral side, those elected to represent the people want to shield themselves from accounting to their people.”
Keyamo called for mass protest against the passage of the bill.
Also, the CACOL Coordinator, Mr. Debo Adeniran, observed that rather than making laws to suit the purpose of those they were representing, the legislators want to constantly compete with the executive
He, therefore, urged the lawmakers to jettison the idea in the interest of peace.
In his comments, Mr. Bright Ezeocha, the President, Igbo Youth Congress, described the bill as anti-masses and the worst thing to happen to the nation’s democracy.
“The bill is making Nigeria a laughing stock in the world. It is unacceptable and unimaginable that persons at that level should conceive of such an absurd idea.
“This is a simple call for Nigerians to rise up and take these men up,” he said.