CNPP warns against immunity for lawmakers

FILE PHOTO: House of Representative in session

Group says pushing ahead with the bill marks the height of sensitivity by the Nigerian lawmakers.

The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, has said that the move by the House of Representatives to grant immunity to lawmakers in Nigeria could legalize corruption and threaten the country’s existence.

A bill seeking to grant Nigerian lawmakers immunity scaled through second reading on Thursday in the lower legislative chamber.

The only public officers who currently enjoy immunity under the constitution are the President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies.

Lawmakers in Nigeria only enjoy freedom from being prosecuted for what they say during debate on the floor.

CNPP, in a statement by its Secretary General, Willy Ezugwu in Abuja on Friday, said pushing ahead with the bill marks the height of insensitivity and disrespect for the people they represent.

It added that the bill was coming at a time when the preponderance of opinion among Nigerians was to strip the executive arm of government of immunity because of rising cases of corruption among them.

The coalition of opposition parties in the country said it was worrisome that the legislative arm, which the people now see as the last bastion in governance, could seek to get the same criminal protection as the executive arm.

“It is shameful for one to begin to have the inkling that the scandals around Lawan Farouk and Herman Hembe with many others that are yet to go public could be the impetus for this criminal legislation,” the group said.

“Instead of making legislation to grant immunity to lawmakers, who already have parliamentary immunity anyway, members of the House of Representatives should have intensified efforts to use the ongoing amendment of the Constitution to do away with immunity clause for the president and governors to at least open them up for criminal prosecution for corruption.”

CNPP noted that Nigerians were already wary of the controversy trailing how much each lawmaker legitimately earns, saying “what happens to the constituency allowances voted for lawmakers and other monies they allegedly corner from performing their oversight functions.”

The group added, “This latest effort at shielding lawmakers from being held accountable as representatives of the people will only worsen the distrust in which Nigerians hold this class of politicians.”

The group also warned that the move by the House could worsen an already terrible situation, adding that it was up to Nigerians, who the CNPP would support, to mobilize against the members of the National Assembly until they changed their minds.

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