Reps in rowdy session over immunity clause

Reps in rowdy session over immunity clause
July 12 22:09 2016

Members of the House of Representatives engaged one another in a shouting match on
Tuesday
over a bill seeking to provide
immunity for principal officers of
the National Assembly.
Sponsor of the bill intending to
alter section 308 of the 1999
Constitution, Leo Ogor (PDP-
Delta), said that immunity for the
leadership of the legislature
 would guarantee its
independence.

Ogor said immunity would
also protect the legislature from
unnecessary distractions arising
from court cases.
According to him, the amendment
seeks to strengthen the National
Assembly as its leadership should
be protected in the period they
are in office.
Supporting the motion, Nicholas
Ossai (PDP-Delta), said the move
would protect the legislature and
the people.
“It behoves on us to protect the
institution that protects good
governance. When you protect
the legislature, you
protect the people,” Ossai
said.
However, the Majority Leader of
the House, Femi Gbajabiamila
(APC-Lagos), opposed the motion,
saying the timing of the bill was
wrong.

He said it would send a wrong
signal as the electorate would
assume that the bill was designed
to frustrate the fight against
corruption under which the
President of the Senate, Bukola
Saraki, was being prosecuted.
“We must feel the pulse of the people; there is
something about timing, timing in any piece of
legislation is important.
“There are issues in the senate and I pray it is
resolved. Because of what is going on in the
Senate, you cannot convince the people that
the bill is not politically-motivated,” he said.

Gbajabiamila argued that only the
executive arm of government enjoyed
immunity globally.
“We cannot isolate ourselves from comity of
countries that practice democracy,” he said.
The speaker, Yakubu Dogara, referred the bill
to the Ad hoc Committee on Constitution
Amendment.
At this point, the plenary descended into
chaos as many members opposed the
speaker’s position, saying the bill must be
subjected to a voice vote.
Some lawmakers, including the deputy
chairman, Committee on Rules and Business,
Olabode Ayorinde, who cited relevant orders
of the house’s rules, said the bill must go
through second reading.
According to them, any bill that seeks to alter
the Constitution can be sent to the special
committee upon second reading.
When calm was restored,  Dogara said
though the bill had been referred to a
committee, “it can still die even at the
committee level”.

(NAN)