Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 5 July 2018 | 1,938 times
The Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, Chief Victor Umeh on Monday said that without the immunity clause, Senator Bukola Saraki has become the most distracted Senate President.
He described as injustice and imbalance of power, a situation where heads of the executive arm of government enjoy immunity while the two other organs of government do not.
Umeh, who spoke in an interview, said that if Senate President is to react to the presidency on the basis of what he is subjected to, the National Assembly would have been incited into a regrettable action.
He said, "You can see that he (Saraki) has been undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Court, and of recent, they implicated him in a bank robbery, dragging his name in the mud.
"Each time we met at the executive session, we feel so sad about the development, but then, what do we do? We have to think about Nigeria and our country, not about the President or the presidency"
The Senator said that the National Assembly is working towards amending the constitution to create room for immunity to the offices of the Senate President and the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Other beneficiaries include the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, and the Chief Judges of the State Judiciaries.
He explained that the measure was important to shield the officers from what he called 'executive distraction'.
He added, "We have the Executive, we have the Legislature and we have the Judiciary. These three arms of government provided by the constitution are intended to be independent of each other.
"The National Assembly oversights the executive functions of the federal government and when the executive arm of government begins to trample on the rights of the legislature there is bound to be conflict and that is what we have seen so far, where the Presidency has overstepped its powers in its dealings with the National Assembly.
"Section 88 confers oversight powers on the legislature in dealing with the Federal government; it is not the other way round."
Umeh regretted that many of the senators were being hounded by the EFCC, even as a lot of others are in detention for one allegation or the other.
While blaming the 1999 constitution for the situation of things, he said that it was tailored to serve the whims and caprices of a military dictator.
"We have looked at it and we know that these things could be traced to the constitution we are operating. This present constitution, the 1999 constitution was a constitution that was written for one individual.
"He geared towards changing from Military President to Civilian President and he made a constitution that would make him the overlord, and the people who wrote the constitution gave so much powers to the executive and weakened the legislative arm of the government.
"In the constitution, the President and the Vice President are covered with immunity from prosecution against any form of crime; same as governors and deputy governors
"And the head of the legislature or the presiding officers of the legislature were not covered with any form of immunity. In other words, they can be prosecuted for any criminal allegation and so on."
According to him, the lawmakers at the upper legislative chamber of the national assembly believe that there should be balance of privileges in the constitution.
He added, "if the constitution that creates the executive arm, the legislative arm and the judiciary and envisages that they should be independent of each other, they ought to enjoy equal protection under the constitution. The privileges ought to be equal. "A situation where you leave the entire NASS to the whims and caprices of the president makes the NASS weak in the discharge of its functions."
"In the hierarchy of this country, protocol-wise, number one is the President, number two is the Vice President, number three is the Senate President, number four is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, number five is the Deputy Senate President, number six is the Deputy Speaker, number seven is the Chief Judge of Nigeria down the line.
"So, the constitution gave immunity to President and Vice President, jumped number three, number four, number five, number six and went down to governor of a state and his deputy and gave them immunity. So, it is absurd in its entire contemplation.
Umeh explained that for the reason of striking a balance in the discharge of the lawmakers' functions, the Senate president, the deputy senate president, the speaker of the House of Reps, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps., the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Speaker of various houses of Assemblies and their deputies should also have immunity protection.
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