Only few days ago, we had very high hopes about the removal of immunity bill sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta-Central constituency and forwarded to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review in December.
The bill sought to amend Section 308 of the Nigerian constitution which provides that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against the office of the President, Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor, though a civil action may be instituted against such executive office holder in connection to his or her official duties.
Senator Omo-Agege’s bill states that the immunity granted to the president, governors and their deputies in the section of the bill stated above would no longer apply to criminal proceedings arising from allegations of financial crimes against them.
If successful, the bill would have clasped the wings of executive holders and made sure of their accountability as long as they remained in office. Ultimately, it would empower President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign as erring governors, deputy governors, vice-president and even the President himself would face prosecution if found guilty in any financial misappropriation case.
The Senate says the referral of the bill to the committee on constitution review is ill-timed. The bill was reportedly submitted after the committee had presented its report on constitutional amendments to the House.
But the side story is that some state governors have pulled all the necessary strings to stifle the bill. Although the committee has denied this claim and has referred to it as a “baseless rumour”, it sounds to us like the most probable reason for the fate that the immunity bill has suffered.
When the Senate resumes for 2017, it will proceed with sorting all matters relating to the amendment of the constitution. There is hardly any hope that Senator Omo-Agege will re-present the bill or it will come up in further deliberations; so as it is executive office holders can sit back, relax and wallow in corrupt practices, at least until they leave office.