Reps Propose President, Governor Immunity Removal

It has been reported that the House of Representatives is considering the removal of the “immunity” clause being enjoyed by the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors.

This is coming after a bill seeking to remove their immunity from criminal and civil prosecution is awaiting second reading at the House.

According to reports, the Constitution amendment bill was sponsored by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Taraba State, Rimamnde Kwewum.

According to him, “This bill seeks to provide for immunity and make the category of persons named and/or referred to in Sub-Section 3 of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution not subject to legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal, during their period of office, provided that such actions or offences do not relate to or bother on acts of corruption, murder, treason, or other (personal) crimes committed by them as individuals, whether in or out of office.”

Kwewum stated that, “This bill seeks to remove all forms of immunity whilst holding such office. Currently, Section 308 of the CFRN provides immunity for persons holding the office of president or vice-president, governor or deputy governor under Subsections 1(a), (b) and (c); (2) and (3) thereof. In effect, by this constitutional provision, restriction is placed on legal proceedings for persons holding these offices under Subsections 1 and 2, Section 308, CRFN.”

He added that, “The amendment proposed here, however, seeks to limit or remove such immunity, whether civil or criminal, provided however that the action and decisions contemplated therein do not relate to such issues as corrupted to the crime of murder, treason, or any other personal crimes committed by the office holder as an individual whilst in or out of office.”

According to Kwewum, the immunity for heads of the executive arm of government presumes that holders of the offices necessarily possess some form of divinity that immunes them from committing crimes; always act according to the law and the constitution; do not have any interest or loyalties that go against the state and its people and are above the law-meaning that the law does not apply to them.

He stated, “The above tenets do not conform to democracy and natural law of justice. Besides, deifying human beings these regulations have protected heinous crimes against the people and the state. Increasingly, around the world the rules of accountability and equality before the law are being strengthened.”

Kwewum also made it known that, “The scenario of several cases cannot, however, prevent the strengthening of our system and constitutional framework to increase the greatest good for the highest number of people. Secondly, a chief executive – president or vice-president, governor or deputy governor – who commits a criminal offence has already distracted himself.”

He disclosed that, “Furthermore, such a criminal action itself disqualifies him from holding such a position and the very fact that he is suspected by law enforcement agencies and people of having committed such a criminal offence diminishes him and the offence he is occupying in the eyes of reasonable people.”

He stressed that, “In addition, justice delayed is justice denied. Assuming a president or governor commits rape or murder, what if lack of immediate prosecution leads to his tampering with witnesses or evidence? The amendment being proposed will not pre-dispose governors and (other) executives to distraction as these are explicitly prohibited.”

He opined that, “It is obvious that immunity exists only in countries that with weak democratic structures. Immunity for executives has stunted our development and engendered democracy, removing the blanket immunity clause would increase accountability and open up the creativity of Nigeria people.”

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Esther Ifeoluwa

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