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The Senate and legislative impunity

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The Senate during a plenary

Sir: Sequel to his non-appearance on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in response to the Senate summons that he should appear in his official uniform, the Nigerian Senate in plenary called on the Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) to resign from office because, according to them, by not appearing before the house in uniform, the CG was unfit to hold public office.

One recollects that despite being turned back last week Wednesday for disobeying the Senate’s illegal and unconstitutional directive to adorn his official uniform, Col. Ali educated and admonished members of the Senate to seek legal advice on the constitutionality of their action with regards to his being compelled to wear the uniform because of their status as lawmakers who ought to know that their actions should be guided by the law which is their primary responsibility to make for the good of the society.

Ordinarily, one expected a responsible and focused Senate, in view of the latest development, to have done the needful of suspending its summons till after the determination of a court case over the matter, in obeisance to its rules which forbid debates or discussion on any issue on the floor of the house which is before the law court, because it amounts to subjudice, but not the eighth session of the Nigerian Senate .

Before now, one had warned the Senate to be conscious of the fact that Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy in which the functions and responsibility of the three arms of government are clearly spelt out in black and white. As lawmakers, one expected them to know their constitutional limits and not usurp the functions of other arms of government in the exercise of their legislative responsibility in whatever form, but unfortunately, the reverse is the case.

The legislature as the bastion of democracy is a hallowed chamber which demands utmost integrity, discipline and responsibility in utterances and actions whether as individuals or collectively as a body and not the kind of crudity, bullying, illegality and comedy show that Nigerians have been repeatedly treated to by this Senate which by its actions is unrepresentative of the Nigerian people by assaulting their sensibility.

In view of the fact that the constitution is the grundnorm of the Nigerian state, which the actions of institutions and citizens must conform with, may we as democrats and advocates of the rule of law ask our “distinguished” members of the Senate to inform Nigerians, where in the constitution, they derive the powers to call for the resignation of a public officer who declines to be an accomplice in their illegality and irresponsibility of disobeying their own rules and undermining democracy by contempt for other arms of government?

If this call for the resignation of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service by the Senate based on his non-appearance in order not to run foul of the law through contempt of court has no constitutional backing, then the Senate has once again embarked on legislative impunity which is uncivilised, reckless, irresponsible and condemnable.

• Nelson Ekujumi,


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