Why Buhari Can’t Be Tight-lipped Over National Assembly Immunity Proposal, By Kolawole Olaniyan

Although we are headquartered in Washington D.C. USA, our reporters and editors are working around the globe to cover what you care about. We invite you to donate to our fundraiser to help us keep our quality news free and available for all.

Imagine that members of the 8th National Assembly had announced during the recent general election campaigns exactly how they were going to tear up section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (which protects the president, vice president, governors and their deputies against civil and criminal proceedings while they are in office) to grant their leaders immunity from prosecution for corruption and money laundering.

“Fellow Nigerians and patriots, we promise you that we will immediately after the elections make sure that our leaders enjoy immunity from prosecution for corruption, money laundering and other similar crimes. We will make sure that our leaders are no longer subject to the criminal law to reflect their powerful positions and show that you are not like any one of us. We stand here today to tell you that we will be doing this to shield us and our leaders from our political foes.”

Had they done this, it’s almost certain that they would not have been elected (or re-elected) as parliamentarians in a free and fair election. But a few months after becoming ‘Honourable members’ of the 8th National Assembly they announced through the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Leo Ogor that they would begin the process of constitution amendment to grant the Senate President and his deputy, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy immunity from prosecution for corruption and money laundering.

[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]

According to reports, extending constitutional immunity to these powerful officials is the only way to counter what they see as ‘the constant external influence and manipulations in the choice of presiding officers of the National Assembly.’

This immunity initiative is coming on the heels of the trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on 13 counts of false assets declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, thus suggesting that the two may not be unconnected. The immunity initiative looks like a revenge job, and one for self-aggrandisement.  

This is undoubtedly a low period in public esteem for our ‘lawmakers.’

Yet, the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclaimed fight against corruption hinges not only on his ‘integrity record’ or members of his cabinet but also the collective involvement of all branches of government, in particular the National Assembly and the judiciary.

What the National Assembly is doing is patently at odds with the ‘anti-corruption agenda’ of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ‘political change’ that Nigerians voted for. This is like taking Nigeria back to the middle ages. And it clearly undermines the rule of law as it portrays the lawmakers as being above the law.  

It’s double standard for the lawmakers to make laws to regulate others while tearing up the constitution to be free of regulation themselves.

The 1999 Constitution (as amended) recognizes the role of the National Assembly to “make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation.” This suggests that when it comes to issue of corruption, members of the 8th National Assembly should worry less about their own interest and more about the citizens who are the real victims of corruption.

As a law-making body whose primary duty it is to make laws for good governance, its purpose ought to be to rid the country of impunity for those who will commit high level official corruption, with a philosophy that doesn’t recognize immunity or give leeway to the most powerful or influential.

Extending rather than limiting immunity from prosecution for corruption involving parliamentarians is a licence to impunity and lawbreaking, which clearly isn’t compatible with good governance. Parliamentarians promoting and granting immunity to themselves can only serve to launder the rule of the powerful rather than the rule of law.

And it’s patently inconsistent with the United Nations Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. The convention in fact requires Nigeria to achieve “appropriate balance between any immunities” and to “ensure effective investigation, prosecution and adjudication of corruption offences.”

Part of making laws for good governance of Nigeria is to serve the desire of victims of corruption for accountability, for justice, for dignity, and the members of the 8th National Assembly will be fulfilling their constitutional role by, for example, addressing as a central priority the situation of victims of corruption including by clearing the way through public hearings and progressive legislation that can provide legal standing and access to effective remedies for victims of corruption.  

It is not by clinging to whatever will shield them from their perceived political foes that members of the 8th National Assembly will better perform their law-making role. And it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the fight against corruption.

After all, there is always the judiciary and due process of law to take care of any perceived abuse of anti-corruption laws by the authorities.

If only members of the 8th National Assembly can grasp the thinnest slice of what victims of corruption experience they will re-think their proposal to grant their leaders immunity from prosecution for corruption.

In his seminal work The Anatomy of Courage Lord Moran observed many years ago what seems so obvious to us now, that “Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives…Courage is will power.” It is to be hoped that members of the 8th National Assembly will have the courage to drop this out-of-fashion-immunity-proposal for the ‘love of the country’ and its impoverished citizens.

Also, President Buhari should be aware that the immunity initiative poses serious risks to his anticorruption agenda, and the likelihood of it being compromised is very high. He should speak out and move swiftly to dissuade members of the 8th National Assembly from taking forward the immunity initiative if his vision to be remembered as a Nigerian president who fought corruption to a standstill’ is to be effectively realised.

Olaniyan is Legal Adviser at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat, London, and author of ‘Corruption and Human Rights Law in Africa.’


TODAY NEWS AFRICAhttps://todaynewsafrica.com
TODAY NEWS AFRICA is registered and headquartered in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Our publication is widely read, respected and influential. By providing daily answers to questions our readers have about the people, the businesses and the continent of Africa, we are reaching a diverse and wide audience from around the world. Our readers, many of them world leaders, trust us because we are independent and truthful. Our advertisers understand the difference between news, views and ads. Contact us: contactus@todaynewsafrica.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Trending Now


Five Africans from Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Liberia and Uganda make UN 2020 class of 17 young world leaders

The United Nations on Friday announced the names of the latest class of 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals...

UN calls for bold action for world to recover from COVID-19

Amidst a crisis unlike any other in our lifetimes, with COVID-19 destroying lives and livelihoods across the globe, the 75th session...

USAID awards millions of dollars to Washington State University to combat lethal livestock disease in East Africa known as East Coast Fever

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded millions of dollars to Washington State University to combat a lethal livestock...

540 bipartisan elected officials from all 50 U.S. states urge President Trump to welcome refugees

At least 540 local and state elected officials from all 50 states and the District of Columbia expressed their strong support...

Top UN economists warn of crises of our own making if global “megatrends” left unchecked

Five human‑made “megatrends” will  continue to  dominate and frustrate global efforts to put the world on a more sustainable and prosperous...


Nigerian activists sue Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker over ‘failure to publish details of corruption probes’

Nigeria's Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of House...

IMF announces COVID-19 youth fellowship contest

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday announced its IMF 2020 Annual Meetings Youth Fellowship Contest, which is open to bloggers,...

One of Nigeria’s most influential pastors Enoch Adeboye protests rising insecurity under Buhari as Prophet T.B. Joshua calls for prayers

Enoch Adejare Adeboye, one of Nigeria's most influential pastors, and General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God with branches...

South African president gives defense minister 48 hours to explain why air force plane was used to fly ANC members to Zimbabwe

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has given Minister of Defense and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula 48 hours to explain why a South...

The world should hear the cries of Oromo people in Ethiopia

The Oromo people in Ethiopia are good people and the world should hear their cries for justice, equality, peace, liberty, democracy...

The needless furore over fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria – Perspectives by Maryam I. Shettima

Mr President is in the eye of the storm recently for bravely realizing the inevitable expungement of the fuel subsidy in Nigeria, brave due to the extreme furore and knee jerk reaction by some gullible and credulous Nigerians, who are convinced that, this decision is most inhumane and anti masses. Yet, conflictingly, deep within their minds, they are secretly relieved in knowing...

Stay connected


[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]