The bill that attempted to eliminate the immunity against prosecution being enjoyed by the president, vice president, state governors and their deputies has been suspended in the Senate.
The bill which was sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege (Labour Party, Delta State), sought to amend Section 308 (2) of the 1999 Constitution to allow for the prosecution of the affected leaders on matters relating to economic and financial crimes even when in office.
The bill suffered the setback because it was introduced to the Senate after the constitution review committee had submitted a report on the key amendments to be effected in the life of the Eighth National Assembly.
Members of the senate have dismissed allegations that the bill was being frustrated by state governors.
Specifically, Omo-Agege’s bill had stated that the immunity granted to the president, governors and their deputies in section 308 (1) of the constitution would no longer apply to criminal proceedings arising from allegations of financial crimes against them.
Section 308 (1) of the current constitution which gave immunity to the affected leaders reads:
“No civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office;
“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“no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued.”
The bill had attempted to replicate the experience in the United States where the president and vice president, governors and their deputies are only immune from civil proceedings arising from their official actions while in office.
The passage of the bill into law was expected to ensure and increase accountability in public office, especially as regards the president, his deputy and governors and their deputies.
If the bill successfully passes at the senate, it is subject to approval to atleast 24 out of the 36 house of assemblies in the nation.
While, the ‘immunity clause removal’ bill has suffered a set back, the Ekweremadu-led constitution review committee have hinted that the ongoing amendment will seek to deliver ‘true federalism’, which has been a nagging issue in the country.