The House of Representatives has passed for first reading, a bill to provide immunity to the leadership of the National Assembly, despite objections by some of the lawmakers.
The sponsor of the bill, Leo Ogor, the minority leader of the House, said by providing immunity for the leadership of the National Assembly, the independence of the legislature would be guaranteed.
He said “Section 308 of the Constitution which only gives immunity to the President, Vice, President, Governors and their deputies should be amended to include presiding officers of the National Assembly. This will ensure the independence of the National Assembly, as a legislative arm of the Nigerian Government.”
However, majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila claimed that there was no democracy in the world where heads of the legislature enjoy immunity and that the timing of the legislation was wrong.
“There was no any democracy in the world that heads of the legislature enjoy immunity, and even if it would work, the timing was wrong especially now that the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu were facing trials,” Gbajabiamila insisted.
The House became restive after Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara abruptly ended the debate on the matter, and referred it to the Special Ad-hoc Committee on Constitutional amendment headed by the Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun.
The bill seeks to amend section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution which provides immunity to the President, Vice President, State Governors and their deputies ,to include Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, had in Lagos, over the weekend, justified the National Assembly plan to pass the legislation extending the immunity shielding the president and state governors from criminal prosecution to the principal officers of the legislature.
He stated that though there was an outcry, especially on the social media against the move, those against the legislation, had effectively conferred legitimacy to the ongoing trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of the Senate rules.
He insisted that the independence of the National Assembly must remain sacrosanct, cautioning that in the future it might be impossible to stop any interference with the legislature.
Aliyu Sani Madaki, a member from Kano State and one of the opposers of the bill, assured Nigerians that the bill would not scale through at the green chambers as it contravened the essence of their election as representatives of the Nigerian people.
He said the bill would not benefit the electorate but would encourage impunity and meant to serve selected few at the detriment of citizens.
If the proposal succeeds and is inserted in the constitution, the President of the Senate and the Deputy Senate President, who are being prosecuted for false and anticipatory assets declaration as well as alleged forgery, may enjoy some stay of execution.