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Mixed reactions over impeachment move, immunity for legislators

By Samson Ezea
19 July 2016   |   3:26 am
There is no doubt that the frosty relationship between the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly, especially that of the Senate, which started from the inception of the All Progressives Congress...
President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

There is no doubt that the frosty relationship between the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly, especially that of the Senate, which started from the inception of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari has lingered more than expected. This was despite several make-belief moves to resolve it before now.

Latest of such incidents which was a fallout of the sour relationship between the two arms of the government was the reported alleged impeachment move against President Buhari and the National Assembly’s quest for absolute immunity for its leadership and pension for its members.

Senators fingered in the alleged impeachment plot such as the Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, and former governor of Sokoto State representing Sokoto North, Alhaji Aliyu Wamako have denied plotting any impeachment moves against Buhari.

Speaking to The Guardian on the impeachment moves, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Sunday Ekun said the report could not have been true otherwise the present National Assembly could be described as jesters trying to derail the country’s democracy.

According to him, “What were President Buhari’s offences that call for his impeachments? Have Nigerians taken their time to study the activities of the Senate since they came on board? There are two executive bills before them on anti-graft fight, but they have refused to look into them because they have a lot to hide.

“They have tried to ban social media and amend Criminal Justice Act, just because the Senate President is facing trial over corruption.”On the National Assembly’s move for immunity and pension self, Ekun said that it is the height of leadership irresponsibility and legislative rascality.

He wondered why the National Assembly wants immunity and life pension as if it really meant well for the country. “What are they hiding or afraid of? It is high time Nigerians challenge these lawmakers because they have been holding the country down being petty and selfish,” Ekun said.

But former National Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu said based on the political peculiarities of the country, the leadership of the National Assembly should have absolute immunity under the Constitution.

“This is contrary to my earlier position that immunity should be removed on criminal cases. But due to the characters the country has been having as leaders since 1999 and may likely continue; it is important for the leadership of the National Assembly to be clothed with absolute immunity like its executive counterpart. This will guarantee total independence of the legislature and check unnecessary intimidation or coercion by the executive as being witnessed presently.”

On the purported plan to impeach Mr. President, Anyanwu said he was opposed to such attempt now “even though I dislike his style of governance. It is too early to anticipate impeachment against his person. He should rather be allowed to unveil his true person.”

A former member, House of Representatives, Mr. Jerry Ugokwe said that immunity for the lawmakers was operational on the floor of the House, where they can say or do anything because they were protected by the law.To him the impeachment plot was unnecessary for now. “I don’t think anybody talking about it now meant it, it may be just to rattle or shake the system. Besides impeaching a Nigerian president is not a tea party constitutionally. It is tasking and a time-consuming process.”

In her remarks, a former Senator from Adamawa State, Mrs. Grace Bent said immunity should be defined clearly and that she was against absolute immunity.
According to her, “My grouse against current immunity is that it is absolute. It should not be because it breeds rascality and criminality. But if executive is enjoying it, there is nothing wrong extending it to the legislators because what is good for goose is also good for ganders.  But this is a wrong time for the National Assembly to ask for immunity for its members. They should read the mood of the nation. The atmosphere is not conducive for such request.”

On the impeachment plot against the president, Bent said: “It will heat up the polity and Nigerians don’t need it now because they have enough challenges to contend with now. The lawmakers should sheathe their sword and help the executive pull the country out of the woods. Nigerians would not tolerate or condone such plot against the President now. So the Senate should perish the idea now. ”