House of Reps. mull removal of immunity for President, VP, Governors, Deputy Governors

The House of Representatives is set to commence debate on the general principle of a bill that seeks to remove all forms of immunity clauses conferred on the President, Vice President, State Governors and Deputy Governors in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The private member Bill, which passed through First reading on the floor of the House, was sponsored by the immediate-past Chairman, House Committee on Army, Hon. Rimamnde Shawulu Kwewum and seeks to amend section 308 of the Principal Act.

He maintained that the amendment being proposed will not pre-dispose President, Vice President as well as Governors and Executives to distraction as these are explicitly prohibited.

The lawmaker, who argued that such immunity exists only in countries with weak democratic structures stressing that immunity for Executives has stunted our development and engendered democracy, hence “removing the blanket immunity clause would increase accountability and open up the creativity of Nigerian people.

While citing the provisions in other jurisdictions, he observed that “there is absolute immunity from civil litigation for official acts undertaken” in the United States of America.

According to him, in the United Kingdom, immunity from criminal prosecution is not enjoyed by members of parliament. Parliamentary immunity (parliamentary privileges) are allowed. No prosecution for what is disclosed in Parliamentary debates and processes.

He further observed that in France, only Parliamentary privileges/immunity are allowed. In Germany, there are only parliamentary privileges/immunity but parliament can vote to lift the immunity for specific members and allow prosecution of the President.

In Chile, there is Parliamentary immunity. No immunity for serving Presidents. Prosecutions can commence immediately after leaving office.

In Cote d’Ivoire, the President is liable for acts done in the exercise of his office, can be prosecuted for high treason; in Fiji Island, there is full unconditional immunity for President, Prime Minister, etc.; in Kazakhstan, the President is immune; in Lebanon, immunity while discharging functions of the office; in the neighbouring Niger Republic, immunity in the exercise of the function of the office, no immunity for high treason; in Russia, inviolability of immunity for former and President, while in Syria, immunity is granted except treason.

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