By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives members, yesterday argued for more than one hour over the propriety or otherwise of conferring immunity on the Senate President, his deputy, the Speaker of the lower Chamber and his deputy, as well as the Speakers of the State Assembly and their deputies.
The development followed a presentation for a second reading of a bill titled “A Bill for 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 Related Matters”, sponsored by Odebunmi Olusegun, from Oyo State.
Hardly had Hon. Olusegun moved the motion before the presiding officer, Rep Femi Gbajabiamila pointed out that it would not be morally right for him to preside over the debate if he was going to be a beneficiary of the immunity.
The Speaker moved to step aside but later advised that the sponsor of the bill should amend it and make the commencement date for implementation futuristic.
“The present presiding officers cannot benefit. In debating this bill, we should make it futuristic”, he said.
But most of the members who gave their advice to the bill, said it runs at variance with the spirit of democracy, which shows transparency, probity and accountability.
They reasoned that conferring such on the presiding officers of the legislature when there was clamor to remove the immunity currently enjoyed by the President of the country, the deputy, State governor and their deputies was not for the best interest of the people.
Hon. Serguis Ogun from Edo State said it was not needed in Nigeria at this time.
“I do not think this is what we need today. I don’t know what we need immunity for. There is even a clamor to remove the immunity the president is enjoying”, he said.
But in response, the Speaker asked him whether the head of other arms of government were enjoying immunity or not.