WORRIED by moves by the House of Representatives to remove the immunity clause that protects the President and governors from prosecution while in office, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, and some lawyers have begun moves to stop the plan from sailing through.
In its report, presented to the plenary last week, the House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review recommended the scrapping of SIECs, local government joint account with states and removal of immunity protecting the President and governors from prosecution while in office.
The lawmakers claimed that the recommendations reflected the wishes of the majority of the electorate who took part public hearing sessions.
The publication of the outcome of the committee’s work has, however, raised concerns among political interests, which view the move as one that could expose senior political figures to undue prosecutions over personal and public infractions in the course of their work.
Recommendations unacceptable — Amaechi
Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, told Vanguard yesterday, that the recommendations were not acceptable to governors and that appropriate decisions were being taken in line with the wishes of the people.
The governor said that there was no need for Nigerians to chastise the lawmakers for their work, as the governors also have a role to play before the recommendations become law.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said that the legislators meant well for the country.
He said: “Ät all times, we have tried to do the best to save this country with far-reaching decisions that many have come to cherish after the initial furore. What these men have done is to promote a better Nigeria and bring development to the third tier of government in particular.
“We believe that if the amendments are effected they would go a long way to give Nigerians a new lease of life across board.”
However, some lawyers in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, said making Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, solely responsible for the conduct of all elections was a breach of the principle of true federalism.
Mr. Onyekachi Ubani, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ikeja branch, urged the National Assembly to drop the idea because “it negates the principle of proper federalism.
“If you say local governments are under states, the states should be responsible for conducting elections into council positions.”
He said that most elections conducted by some state electoral commissions in the past had not lived to the expectations of many Nigerians due to lack of fairness and credibility.
He said: “The electoral fraud at that level is very high, but scrapping SIECs will not solve the problem. What we should do is to build strong institutions which would ensure that our elections are free and fair.”
A former Chairman of NBA, Ikeja branch, Mr. Adebamigbe Omole, said making INEC the sole body in charge of elections would lead to more abuses because “this will only give the Federal Government more powers to trample on the rights of states like they are doing with the police.
He said: “Look at what is happening to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. That is why some governors are clamouring for state police.”
On his part, a human rights activist, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, said Nigerians should be vigilant and defend their votes at all elections.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the ad-hoc committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, yesterday, explained why his committee did not adopt state police, single tenure and immunity for the President, vice president, governors and deputy governors as had been canvassed by some commentators and critics.
Ihedioha revealed this in a meeting with Civil Society Organisations,CSOs, saying: “Once again we did our duty. If the Senate or the House of Representatives or state Houses of Assembly reject this clear decision of the people, so be it. It is again for Nigerians to hold those it elected accountable.”
Ihedioha said: “The committee conducted a painstaking consultative process with major stakeholders as joint-organisers. These stakeholders include NLC, TUC, NUJ, NUT, CSOs, NULGE, NCWS, youths and students organisations, NBA, and so on.”
He said the submission of his committee on these and other issues on the constitution review was a clear reflection of the views and position of the broad generality of Nigerians as reflected and documented in the results of the peoples’ public sessions conducted by the House of Representatives in November last year.
“The results were collated publicly with all the stakeholders present. The results have been presented and published for people to dispute and correct. In the absence of any convincing reason to the contrary, we stand by these results.”