The House of Representatives has changed its mind on a plan to insert legislative immunity for the National Assembly’s principal officers in the constitution.
The lawmakers dropped the plan less than 24 hours to a three-day retreat, with the theme “The Imperatives of Constitution Review and Amendment in Nation Building,” which opened in Abeokuta, Ogun State at the weekend.
The bill, an Act to Alter Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to Extend Immunity to Cover Presiding Officers of Legislative Institutions and for Other Matters, was one of the items earlier listed at the debate, but was withdrawn.
When Speaker Yakubu Dogara called for the presentation of the bill at Thursday’s plenary, for onward reference to the constitution review committee, Chairman, Rules and Business, Worker Jev announced its withdrawal.
The withdrawn bill, in its second reading, was sponsored by Odebunmi Olusegun Dokun, PDP, Oyo State, who had stated that to ensure stability in the polity, there was the need to shield the National Assembly’s presiding officers from arrest and to be sued while in office.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, who is also the Chairman of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, said at the weekend that removing immunity clause for governors was a no- go area in it.
Defending his position, he stressed that the immunity clause the governors are enjoying does not stop them from being prosecuted for criminal charges but only protects them from being prosecuted for civil allegations.
He explained that removing the clause would distract the governors from administering their states properly.
The Deputy Speaker hinted: “Part of the amendment would dwell on financial and administrative autonomy for local governments.”