• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Senate moves to end president, governors’ immunity in criminal matters

Senate

The Senate is seeking amendment of the constitution to disallow immunity in criminal matters currently being enjoyed by the president, vice president, governors and their deputies.

This is sequel to “a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to qualify criminal liability for certain public officers under Section 308″.

The bill, sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, seeks to exclude the public officers from criminal liability “where the offence involves misappropriation of funds belonging to the federal, state or local government and also the use of thugs to foment violence”.

According to the bill, “President, vice president, governors and deputy governors shall lose their immunity if they are investigated by security and anti-graft agencies, including the courts.”

The Senate has also resolved that academic qualification for elective positions of president and governor should be Higher National Diploma (HND), as against school certificate or its equivalent that is currently obtainable.

Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) reads: “(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, but subject to subsection (2) of this section – (a) no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office; (b) a person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise; and (c) no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued:

“(1) Provided that in ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this section applies, no account shall be taken of his period of office.

“(2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party.

“(3) This section applies to a person holding the office of President or Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor; and the reference in this section to ‘period of office’ is a reference to the period during which the person holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office.”

On the contrary, the Bill proposed by Omo-Agege states, “Section 308 of the Principal Act is altered by (a) Substituting for subsection (2), a new subsection ‘(2)’ – (2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply – (a) to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party; and (b) to persons who hold the office of Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor, if it is determined either by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, Nigerian Police and State Security Service through a collaborative investigation that the said person is indicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for: (i) Financial misappropriation of funds belonging to the Federal, State or Local Government; or (ii) Sponsoring of thugs to perpetrate violence that cause injury or death of political opponent, a member of his family, agent or personal representative.”

The Senate on Thursday also voted for a change in academic qualification of those seeking elective positions of president and governor through a constitution amendment bill sponsored by Istifanus Gyang (Plateau North). The bill passed second reading.

The bill seeks to alter Section 131 (d) of the constitution, which deals with minimum requirements for anyone running for the office of the president.

Section 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) stipulates that a person seeking the office of the president must have “been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”, but according to the bill, “Section 131 (d) is now rephrased to read: ‘He has been educated up to at least HND level or its equivalent’.”

It also seeks to alter Section 65 (2) (a) of the constitution which deals with the qualifications for intending members of the National Assembly.

The existing law the bill seeks to amend reads: “A person shall be qualified for election under subsection (1) of this section if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

The bill, however, notes that Section 65 (2) (a) should now be rephrased to read “if he has been educated to at least National Diploma level or its equivalent”.

For House of Assembly, the bill seeks alteration of Section 106 (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to read that anyone seeking election into the House of Assembly must have been “educated up to National Diploma level or its equivalent”, rather than “up to at least the School Certificate level or its equivalent” as stipulated in the principal section.

The bill further seeks the alteration of Section 177 (d) of the Constitution. Currently, Section 177 (d) (as amended) provides that any person seeking the office of governor must have “been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”. The bill, however, seeks that Section 177 (d) be rephrased to read, “If he has been educated up to at least Higher National Diploma Level or its equivalent”.

 

SOLOMON AYADO, Abuja