The immunity clause in the constitution provides the president, vice president, governors and their deputies, with protection from prosecution from offences they commit while in office.
An overwhelming majority of Nigerians are pushing to have incumbent presidents and their vice, as well as governors and their deputies, tried, while in office, for criminal offences they commit, the outcome of the House of Representative public sessions on the review of the 1999 constitution shows.
Out of the nation’s total 360 federal constituencies polled, 225 voted to support a partial removal of the immunity clause on presidents and governors and their deputies, in what is a major public response to the touchy issue of immunity which has helped several chief executives, who are often accused of fraud, and sometimes, sponsoring killings, escape justice.
The current frame of the immunity clause in the constitution allows the president and the governors and their deputies, broad protection from prosecution from all forms of offences while in office; and allows them open for trial only after leaving office.
While several past governors facing corruption charges have yet to be convicted, former presidents never get to face the law, even for a day.
Voters, who participated in weeks of public sessions held across the federation last November, voted to limit that protection; proposing that protection for the chief executives be only for civil cases.
Question 18 out of 43 questions asked Nigerians whether section 308 should be “amended to make the immunity provision for the president” and the rest cover only civil cases. The response was 225 for; 132 against. Only three constituencies abstained from taking a clear position.
The voting outcome, which will be considered by the House of Representatives as they push the final consideration of the constitution amendment, was submitted on Thursday after repeated rescheduling.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, said all opinions raised in the voting will be “fairly considered”.
“To all Nigerians, let me seize this opportunity to assure, on behalf of the House of Representatives that all views and opinions offered at these public Sessions as well as those forwarded through written memoranda, which constitute the substance of this report, will be carefully and fairly considered in fashioning the proposed amendments to the Constitution,” Mr. Tambuwal said.
If approved, incumbents will be open to prosecution on criminal cases only.
But the proposal is far from over as it awaits the House and the Senate’s deliberations, and the state houses of assembly.
With wide margins, voters also rejected agitation for a single tenure of five, six or seven years; state police, rotation of power between south and north; or rotation of power around the six geopolitical zones.
But suggestions for the rotation of the governorship position across the three senatorial districts, received a close response with 175 kicking against and 181 for.
Majority of voters also rejected a proposal to raise from current 13 per cent to 20 per cent, the derivation on resources for the producing areas.
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