.allocates more legislative seats for women
…bill ready for Buhari’s assent in February, Wase, Deputy Speaker
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review has ruled out express constitutional immunity for the Senate President, Speaker of the House, presiding officers presiding officers of State Assemblies and national and state judicial officers.
It will recalled that the House in June 2021 held zonal public hearing across the 6 geopolitical zones of the country.
The committee however began the consideration of the reports yesterday.
At its meeting on Wednesday attended by some stakeholders and consultants, the Committee also jettisoned State Police, but recommended 111 additional legislative seats for women.
Addressing the Committee on the immunity clause, a consultant Abdulhamid Mohammed (SAN) said that allowing it will bring a clash of interest.
He said: “It seeks to restrict that immunity– that you can sue with the leave a competent court, but actually, the bill did not go further to indicate which of the courts within the federation that will have the competence to grant the leave for you to sue the public officer concerned. We need to consider what are the conventions all over the world, in terms of immunity. It is really unconventional all over the world for judicial officers and presiding officers to have immunity. It could also be self-serving from the angle of morality.
“There could be a conflict of interest if the immunity is now extended to judicial officers and that you need to go to the judiciary to seek leave to sue the officers concerned, you are now going to apply before the judicial officers because these are courts of competent jurisdiction. There are perhaps issues of bias.”
Lending his voice, a member of the Committee, Hon. Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) preferred immunity for duties and functions of those public officers excluding criminal acts like rape or murder.
“I want a slight modification as it affects duties of the office. Should a governor come out and shoot somebody, is he covered by immunity? Should an officer go out there and be involved in rape, should he be covered? I should think, in fairness to the public, immunity for things pertaining to his office, like giving a verdict in his court. As it regard the performance of duties, they should have 100 percent immunity. But for crimes outside, there should be no immunity. It should not be a blanket”, he said.
Similarly, another member, Hon. Rimamnde Shawulu (PDP, Taraba) in his contribution informed the committee of a pending bill sponsored by him to strip the executive of the existing immunity.
But in his contribution, Hon. Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) called for the stepping down of the bill, submitting that section 308 of the constitution should be amended to allow citizens to sue executive officers by leave of the House.
Ruling on the matter, the Chairman of the Committee and Deputy Speaker of the House said that the lawmakers already had immunity while on the floor through the powers and privileges act.
He however noted that there had been situations where some executives have been “reckless” in action against lawmakers and judicial officers.
The bill was eventually stepped down.
The Committee also rejected the Bill seeking to substitute section 214 of the Principal Act for new section 214 (1) to establish state police.
A vote put by the Deputy Speaker got 11 voted for while 14 voted against on the clause.
In his remarks, Wase encouraged his colleagues to show more commitment to the work, hinting that the report ought to be ready by the end of February for its transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
Wase said, “I want to believe that if we work very hard, our timetable is that we are going to do our voting at end or towards the end of February this year. And hopefully, the transmission would be done at the end of the month to the President. We have a very choked programme and I will beg that on each of the days slated for the meeting, even if it is five of us that are present, we will start the work so that we will be able to report progress as required of us to plenary.
“So, the onus is on us now as representatives of our various communities and the country, which is the larger constituency, to be patriotic enough to attend to this very clarion call to come and serve our fatherland. Together, I believe we can make the history of delivering a very apt and excellent document to the Nigerian people. I want to beg for your understanding.
“May God help us. Maybe as we progress, we will take a decision: my new thinking is that we will have to do the work with all determination and leaving the work to commence at the end of each day’s plenary is not the best. I am thinking that we could start our work early enough, maybe from 11:30am of each of the remaining days, so that we will be able to do justice and do the clause by clause, and give it the maximum attention it deserves.
“This is what I am praying; I pray that you will accept before we close, so that as from tomorrow we will not wait for plenary to close before we come for the consideration. It is quite energy-consuming and we may not be able to deliver as expected of us. That is why I am begging for that change of structure in terms of our timetable.
“Like I did mention, we have done electoral matters, we have dealt with local government autonomy and judicial reform. Also on record, I believe that there are other referrals that have been sent to us before we went on break, after these considerations. It means then that we will have to tidy up those other areas that are similar, of the referral that have been made to us, so that we will be able to tidy up all the areas, not leaving anything undone, which will jeopardise delivery of good governance to Nigerians.
“You have to work a lot on those areas, our consultants, the remaining bills that have been referee to us, that are related to electoral matters and local government autonomy, judicial reform inclusive. I could remember for judicial autonomy, there is this issue of pension administration, appointment of judges and enhancement of their numbers; all these are constitutional amendments. You now should bring supplementary for consideration of those other areas so that we will be able to put them up for vote at the same time with these other ones.”
The Committee further however recommended the creation of 111 additional legislative seats in the National Assembly exclusively for women, just as the creation of two additional seats in each senatorial zone for women in state Houses of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was recommended.
The committee adopted changes to section 48, 49, 71 and 91 which deals with composition of the Senate, the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly to create additional seats for women.
There is also the adoption of additional Senate seat for women in each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital territory and two additional seats for women in the 36 states and the FCT reserved for women.
The bill also recommended that the additional seats will be in addition to the existing seats in both the Senate, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly, giving the women the right to join in the contest.