Power brokers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and the National Assembly met on Friday night to add more political offices to the list of those to be given immunity.
It was gathered that the cabals wanted the House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review to include the Chief Justice of the Federation, the Attorney-General, the Senate President, and Speaker.
“They made up their mind last night on the list of political seats to get immunity. This includes the Chief Justice of the Federation, the AGF, the Senate President, and the Speaker. They met last night to add those offices. They have been mooting a law to give them more immunity,” a top source disclosed.
Recall that last Wednesday, the National Assembly Committee on Constitution Review recommended immunity for heads of legislature and judiciary less than one month after it rejected the clause.
The recommendation was contained in the report laid by the committee before the House during plenary on Wednesday.
The presentation of the report by its Chairman and Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, was witnessed by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, who was admitted into the chamber alongside Minister of Women Affairs, Pullen Tallen, and other women.
Although Mrs. Buhari did not state the reason for coming to the chamber, the visit could be linked to the gender-related bills.
The committee had stepped down the recommendation for immunity for heads of legislature and judiciary contained in a bill during a meeting with its consultants.
The bill, sponsored by Segun Odebunmi (APC, Oyo), is titled “An Act to alter section 308 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 to extend immunity to cover presiding officers of the legislative institutions”.
Odebunmi is the sponsor of the controversial National Broadcasting Commission bill and the Nigerian Press Council bill.
He also chaired the committee that approved the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian Government.
Abdulhamid Mohammed, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who is one of the consultants working with the committee, opposed the immunity clause in the bill.
“It is really unconventional all over the world for judicial officers and presiding officers (of the legislature) 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,” he said.
Some members of the committee agreed with him while others opposed it.
Some of the lawmakers in the committee, who spoke against the bill during the meeting, include Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia), Rimamnde Shawulu (PDP, Taraba), and Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos).
The presiding officers of the legislative houses in Nigeria are the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of the Representatives, and Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the state Houses of Assembly.
Only the President, Vice President, governors and their deputies currently enjoy immunity under Section 308 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
The immunity clause for executives has been a subject of controversy for a while with Nigerians kicking against it.