The House of Representatives is considering removing the immunity clause enjoyed by the president, vice-president, governors and vice-governors.
A bill to remove their immunity from criminal and civil prosecution is awaiting second reading in the House.
The Constitution Amendment Bill was sponsored by Taraba State People’s Democratic Party member Rimamnde Kwewum.
The explanatory memorandum to the legislation reads as follows: “This bill aims to ensure immunity and ensure that the category of persons appointed and / or referred to in subsection 3 of article 308 of the 1999 Constitution is not subject to legal, civil or criminal proceedings. , during their tenure, provided that such actions or offenses do not relate to acts of corruption, murder, treason or other (personal) crimes committed by them as individuals, whether they are or not depending.
Kwewum, in the legislative brief on the bill, said he seeks to amend section 308 (1) (a), (b) and (c) and section 308 (2).
The legislator has partly stated: “This bill aims to remove all forms of immunity during the exercise of these functions. Currently, section 308 of the CFRN grants immunity to persons holding the office of president or vice-president, governor or deputy governor under subsections 1 (a), (b) and (c); (2) and (3) thereof. Indeed, by this constitutional provision, a restriction is imposed on legal proceedings for the persons occupying these functions by virtue of paragraphs 1 and 2, article 308, CRFN.
“The amendment proposed here, however, is intended to limit or remove such immunity, whether civil or criminal, provided however that the action and decisions contemplated therein do not relate to matters such as corrupt to the crime of murder, treason or any other personal act. crimes committed by the office holder as an individual while in or out of office.
According to Kwewum, the immunity of heads of the executive branch of government presupposes that office-holders necessarily possess some form of deity which makes them immune from the commission of crimes; always act in accordance with the law and the constitution; have no interest or loyalty that runs counter to the state and its people and are above the law, which means the law does not apply to them.
He said: “The above principles do not conform to democracy and the natural law of justice. Further, deifying human beings, these regulations protected heinous crimes against the people and the state.
“More and more, all over the world, the rules of accountability and equality before the law are being tightened.
Speaking on the “wait until after tenure” cliché, lawmakers noted that some well-meaning people have argued that executives should not be distracted and that frivolous cases can be brought against such executives.
Kwewum said: “The scenario of several cases, however, cannot prevent the strengthening of our system and our constitutional framework to increase the greater good for the greatest number of people. Second, a general manager – president or vice-president, governor or vice-governor – who commits a criminal offense has already distracted himself.
“In addition, such a criminal action in itself prevents him from occupying such a position and the very fact that he is suspected by the police and people of having committed such a criminal offense diminishes him. him and the offense he occupies in the eyes of reasonable persons. .
“Moreover, justice delayed is justice denied. Assuming a president or governor commits rape or murder, what if the lack of immediate prosecution leads to tampering with witnesses or evidence?
“The proposed amendment will not predispose governors and (other) leaders to distraction as these are explicitly prohibited.”
The legislator cited various examples of other jurisdictions where immunity was limited or does not exist.
He said, “United States of America: There is absolute immunity from civil suit for official acts undertaken. The United States Supreme Court ruled that the president does not enjoy absolute immunity from civil lawsuits for acts he committed before becoming president. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the president was under subpoena in criminal proceedings for personal conduct.
“United Kingdom: Immunity from criminal prosecution is not immunity enjoyed by parliamentarians. Parliamentary privileges are authorized. No prosecution for what is disclosed in parliamentary debates and processes.
“France: only parliamentary privileges / immunities are authorized.
“Germany: There are only parliamentary privileges / immunities, but the parliament can vote to lift the immunity of some members and allow prosecution.
“Chile: parliamentary immunity. No immunity for sitting presidents. The prosecution can begin immediately upon leaving the office.
“CTE D’Ivoire: the President is responsible for the acts accomplished in the exercise of his functions; can be prosecuted for high treason.
“Fiji Islands: Full and unconditional immunity for the President, the Prime Minister, etc.
“Kazakhstan: immunity for the president
“Lebanon: Immunity in the performance of office functions.
“Niger: Immunity in the exercise of the function; no immunity for high treason.
“Russia: Inviolability of immunity for the former and president.
“Syria: Immunity except for treason.”
Kwewum said: “Obviously, immunity only exists in countries with weak democratic structures. The immunity of the rulers has retarded our development and created democracy, the removal of the general immunity clause would increase the accountability and open the creativity of the Nigerian people. ”