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House Seeks Constitutional Immunity for Legislators

News » Politics

Date: 8th, MARCH, 2013

Image:  National Assembly Complex, Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday passed through after a second reading a bill seeking constitutional immunity for members of legislative houses in Nigeria.

This came as a motion seeking to mandate the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to translate the National Anthem and National Pledge into some indigenous languages Thursday failed to advance forward on the floor of the House.

However, the move arose from the consolidation of two different bills on the same subject and deliberating on their general principles.

Although the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act made provisions for certain level of immunity and shields legislators from civil and criminal proceedings in the course of doing their jobs, sponsors of the bills said the new legislation which requires an amendment to the 1999 Constitution had become imperative.

The proposed legislation would safeguard members of the legislature from criminal and civil court cases being instituted against them on account of their utterances at plenary sessions or at committee meetings.

In essence, the law will prevent the legislator from being questioned in any court or any place for what he or she said on the floor of parliament.

Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Hon.  Ali Ahmad, who is one of the sponsors, argued that past experiences had shown that the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges  Act was not in tandem with Section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution  and thus a challenge to its application.

According to him, the amendment would guarantee the immunity of legislative houses as obtained in other countries around the world.

He argued that whereas the executive and the judiciary had constitutional immunity, the legislators lacked such protection and were therefore exposed to dangers in the course of performing their duties.

Meanwhile, the motion to translate the National Anthem and National Pledge into some indigenous languages was sponsored by Hon. Rotimi Makinde (ACN/Osun), who had argued that the anthem and pledge should be translated to local languages for the benefit of Nigerians, who can neither read nor write the English Language.

Makinde said by translating the National Anthem and pledge to local languages, every Nigerian would be able to understand the message of patriotism embedded in these documents.

Although, many lawmakers agreed with the spirit and principles of the motion, it was roundly defeated at the end of the day.

Hon. Chris Eta (PDP/Cross River) opened the floodgate of attacks when he questioned the rationale behind reverting to local languages which are usually understood by a few in different geo-political zones.

Eta said so long as English Language remained the official language of communication in Nigeria, these items were better left as they are to avoid creating confusion.

He said such an exercise would eventually lead to varied translations and breed disunity in the country.

Other lawmakers who opposed the motion included the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba, and his deputy, Hon. Uzoma Abonta.

Their arguments centred around the implementation of the policy if it was adopted. They argued that Nigeria had as many as 250 local languages and it will be practically impossible to have as many translations without running into a hitch.

Some lawmakers also voted against the motion for fear that the proposed translations may eventually end with Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba to the disadvantage of the hundreds of other languages spoken by the minority ethnic groups. Some argued that if there must be translation, it must go round as no language should be made superior to the others.

The motion died in a voice vote.

Article Credit: The Thisday News

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