Members of the house of representatives have voted in favour of a bill seeking to provide immunity for presiding officers of the national assembly.
The lower legislative chamber passed the constitutional amendment bill for second reading at Tuesday’s plenary session.
Some of the lawmakers argued that the bill is not necessary, while others said it is needed to protect the legislative arm from “persecution”.
Those against it said it will send a “wrong signal” to Nigerians at time when the country is facing numerous challenges.
The constitution currently provides for immunity for only the president, governors and their deputies.
The bill sponsored by Odebunmi Olusegun, however, seeks to extend the immunity to the president and deputy president of the senate as well as speaker and deputy speaker of the house of representatives.
Some of those who supported the bill including Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, majority leader, also said it will help the legislative chamber in carrying out their functions.
Ado-Doguwa said: “It should be passed for the simple reason that it provides protection for leaders of the legislature considering the important work of the legislature.”
Toby Okechukwu from Enugu state also spoke in favour of the bill, saying it will guard against the compromise of the legislative arm.
“We are all witnesses to how the presiding officers were subjected to trial. We should avoid such from happening again,” he said.
Nkem Abonta from Abia state said prosecution of any of the presiding officers could affect the performance of the lawmakers.
He said: “The office of the speaker may be harassed in frivolous suit. My morale may be low because my speaker is being harassed.
“When Saraki was taken to court, we felt demoralised. He was freed at last but calculate the embarrassment it caused the institution.”
‘IMMUNITY FOR PRESIDING OFFICERS NOT NECESSARY’
Sergius Ogun from Edo state said a lot of Nigerians are calling for the removal of immunity for the president and governors, wondering why the leaders of the national assembly need immunity.
“Granted that the principal officers relate with the president from time to time, I don’t know what they need immunity for. It is not necessary,” he said.
Bob Solomon from Rivers state agreed with him, and cited the case of the United States where governors and the president are not ”shielded from trial”.
“I am already personally against immunity being enjoyed by the president and governors. In the US, we have seen presidents and governors being prosecuted. I oppose this bill totally,” he said.
Ndudi Elumelu, minority leader, told the lawmakers their paramount interest should be that of their constituents.
According to him, “outside here, our people are being killed and butchered. We are coming up with a bill on issue of immunity while some of us are saying that people should be held accountable for what they do.
“I think it is wrong and it should not be allowed.”