The Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N) Campaign has condemned the legislative immunity bill and called on Nigerians to resist attempts to have it passed into law by condemning the bill.
The S.I.N Campaign, in a statement, described the legislative immunity bill as “unnecessary, repressive and undemocratic”.
S.I.N Campaign, in the statement, asked members of the National Assembly to move away from “constant preoccupation with themselves and their interests and begin to genuinely represent those who elected them into office by putting in place laws and policies which will lift the vast majority of Nigerians out of a life-time of poverty and deprivation, occasioned largely by the outrageous cost of governance”.
The statement said the bill clearly shows the selfish intention and attempt of legislators to protect themselves from the radar of scrutiny.
Speaking on behalf of the campaign, the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Edetaen Ojo said: “Section 15 of the proposed bill seeks to achieve protection of legislators against libelous media publication and to criminalize speech that is critical of legislators.”
In addition, he said, “There appears to be no purpose to the Bill other than its attempt to shield legislators from public criticisms. Under our current legal framework, legislators are already adequately protected from criminal or civil liabilities for their utterances during legislative proceedings.”
Ojo noted that: “They also already have sufficient powers to summon any person in Nigeria to appear before a legislative body either to testify or to tender documents and other records in the possession or under the control of such a person. They also have the power to compel the attendance of any person summoned.”
The Bill titled, “A Bill for An Act to Repeal Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act. Cap. L12, 2004, and Enact Legislative Powers and Privileges Act 2012 in order to give the Legislature the Desired Powers and Immunity to be able to Carry-out its Legislative Responsibility and for Related Matters” was sponsored by Hon. Ali Ahmad and Hon. Gambo Musa Dan-Musa.
Ojo said “We find it curious that members of the National Assembly are seeking to introduce criminal defamation into our statutes books just to protect themselves at a time when the global movements is towards the repeal of such laws.”
He observed that should the Bill be passed into law, not only will legislators be free to do whatever they like in serving their own interests, as has largely been the case over the last 14 years, they would now also be rid of the minor discomfort of having to bear public criticism.