Parliamentary immunity, also known as legislative immunity, is a system in which members of the parliament or legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution from statements made by them on the floor of the parliament. Which immunity can only be removed by a superior court of justice or by the parliament itself.
In 2016 after the arraignment of the former Senate President for false declaration of assets, the Nigerian National Assembly members hurriedly packaged a Bill proposing Immunity for Principal Members of the National Assembly on the grounds that it is necessary and fair for the heads of the National Assembly to have immunity from criminal prosecution akin to the ones enjoyed by members of the executive as prescribed in S. 308 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
The then Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, even laughably proposed that all National Assembly members and Houses of Assembly members should be given immunity, as according to him, elected officers, who were saddled with the responsibility of ensuring good governance should be allowed to carry out their functions without any form of interference. I see you chuckle at the mention of good governance, I laugh too.
Despite the defeat suffered by the Bill then, in the hands of vociferous Nigerians, it has found its way back in the current Assembly, having passed Second Reading in both Chambers of the National Assembly.
This is nothing but an attempt to confer immunity on all members of the National Assembly, whilst we are still grappling with immunity conferred on Governors and Presidents, some of whom have had to empty the state treasury into their personal pockets and have succeeded in turning the Senate into a retirement home for ex-Governors.
Why are they still discussing immunity for law makers when the leadership of the National Assembly is no longer under threat of prosecution and is firmly under the grip of the Executive?
Why pretend to want to be at par with other arms of government when it is a notorious fact that judges only enjoy immunity from words altered or written in the cause of their jobs which is akin to parliamentary immunity that our National Assembly members already enjoy.
We are also aware that sometime in 2016 judges houses were raided at midnight by men of the State Security Services in Nigeria and a serving Chief Justice of the Federation was subsequently removed from office in 2019 via an ex-parte order and Judges didn’t ask for immunity from prosecution.
Why are our law makers suddenly thinking immunity again when despite the snail speed of our criminal justice system, we are beginning to see some of them who were former State Governors, behind bars and more preparing to follow, if you like, say Jolly Nyame, Joshua Dariye, Orji Uzor Kalu and Chief Theodore Orji, you are on your own.
Are we not ashamed, talking about parliamentary immunity when even international flights meant for our airports are being diverted to Ghana for lack of modern landing equipments? Anyway the minister of aviation has asked airline operators to take advantage of the insecurity in the country to make money from travelers. I weep for our ineptitude.
Don’t we have enough blood on our hands in the country, as some of these law makers can no longer travel to their constituencies or travel to perform oversight functions. Is it not time for them to take some drastic measures to improve the situation in the country, rather than issuing or passing mere resolutions to obtain immunity for themselves?
Why do we like ridiculing our country this way in the eyes of serious minded nations of the world? Is it not bad enough that politicians aided by senior lawyers, are mocking our highest judicial institution (Supreme Court) with a barrage of applications for review of cases long decided with a stamp of finality. Now we want to add immunity for law makers, soon we will be asked to grant immunity to kidnappers, armed bandits and terrorists, after all we are told that repentant terrorists can enlist in the military now. Previously we granted armnesty to militants, and now this new one is coming up, despite not being able to defeat the same terrorist.
Who curse this country?
I would therefore Advocate, that the idea of immunity for either arm of Government be completely jettisoned as it will open a floodgate for impunity which is already ravaging the soul of the country and Nigerians should be aware that if this bill is not opposed,official looting will some day become the norm in government that we will wake up one day and realize that there was once a country called Nigeria.
To them that have ears, let them hear now, otherwise it will be to your tent o ye Nigerians soon.