If a new bill sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (LP, Delta) scales through in the ongoing constitution amendment by the National Assembly, it means that the public officers currently enjoying immunity in the country are on the path of losing the constitutional privileges.
The bill, which is seeking that section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which gives immunity to President, Vice President, governors and deputy governors in the country be reconsidered with a view to amending it, had been referred to the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Senate President Bukola Saraki had before the commencement of Christmas/New Year holiday said the constitution amendment would be passed early next year.
Specifically, the bill seen in the National Assembly journal proposed the substitution of subsection 308(2) that presently reads, “the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party” with a new section.
The proposed amendment reads, the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to, (a) “ civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party”
It (b) part reads, “criminal proceedings connected to, related to or arising from economic and financial crimes”.
Shedding more light on the bill, Omo-Agege said like in the US, the president and VP, governors and their deputies should only be immune from civil actions arising from their official actions while in office.
“They are not entitled to immunity from litigation for actions not germane to their work. For example a president or governor who buys a car for a child and refuses to pay can be taken to court while in office,” he said.
He added that: “also like in the US, there should be no immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution for crimes committed either before or while in office.
“Recall that Mr. Spiro Agnew while a sitting VP under President Nixon was tried and convicted for tax evasion while in office. Bill Clinton as a sitting president was hauled before a grand jury by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr for perjury (lying under oath) while in office as president.
“Finally, Elliot Spitzer as a sitting governor of New York was tried and convicted for illicit solicitation of sex.”
He expressed optimism that if the amendment is passed, there will be sanity, transparency and accountability in the Executive Arm of government, especially “Treatment of our state resources which most of them currently treat as slush funds.”