Sagay, Ozekhome, Falana reject immunity for presiding officers of legislature

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Sagay, Ozekhome, Falana reject immunity for presiding officers of legislature

Presidential  Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) on Tuesday said immunity for legislature’s  principal officers would weaken the anti-graft war.

He believes public officers with nothing to hide should not demand immunity from prosecution.

He said: “I think that is unacceptable because it is going to weaken our war against corruption. Already, we have those statutorily exempted by the Constitution.

“It’s unacceptable to extend immunity beyond what we already have. We have to wait eight years for governors, allowing them to misbehave as they like before any action can be taken against them.

“Anyone who has a clean record should not be thinking of immunity. They shouldn’t.”

Human rights lawyer Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) is of the view that the bill should be killed “with the heaviest of sledgehammers”.

He said: “The bill is another way of asking for legislative immunity against legislative rascality and lawlessness. It is a bill asking for immunity against transparency and accountability.

“It is a bill asking to be shielded from criminality even when a crime is committed. It is a bill seeking to be regarded as a sacred cow, not accountable to anybody, including the Judiciary.

“If it were not for selfish purposes, if it were altruistic and nationalistic, or because they want to be at par with the Executive, why have they not also brought in the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who heads the third arm of government under Section 6 of the Constitution?

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The bill is an insult to our collective intelligence.

“It undermines our humanity as a country, disrespects us as Nigerians and makes the tail want to wag the dog. It is unacceptable, insulting, narcissistic, egregious, insidious and invidious.”

Lagos lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) said the bill is illegal and would not survive.

“The bill will soon be defeated on the floor of the House because it is illegal and unconstitutional.

“Apart from the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors who are entitled to immunity under Section 308 of the Constitution, no other public official or citizen is entitled to be excluded from prosecution for corruption or other criminal offences.

“Only a constitutional amendment can confer immunity on any other group of Nigerians.

“I can assure you that the amendment will not be approved by Nigerians. It was tried in the past but it was popularly rejected,” he said.

A former senator representing Rivers East, Magnus Abe, said the bill’s timing was wrong.

He added that it would not enjoy public support.

He said to widen immunity to lawmakers might lead to giving it to other categories of people including heads of the Judicial arm of the government.