By Ugo Aliogo
A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has strongly described as self-serving and despicable the demand by some senators at the weekend for immunity and life pension for presiding officers of the National Assembly after their tenure in office.
SERAP’s statement followed the proposals by the senators at a two-day retreat on constitution review organised by the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review in Lagos.
Among others, the proposals want presiding officers, such as Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives to enjoy life pension and immunity, since the executive and judiciary are enjoying it.
But SERAP in a statement yesterday by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the retreat by the senators and representative was titled ‘Towards Ensuring Governance Accountability in Nigerian federalism’ but their grand strategy was the calculated use of legislative powers to alter the 1999 Constitution in their own favour so that they can enjoy life benefits at the expense of millions of economically and socially disadvantaged Nigerians who voted them into office.
The statement read in part: “SERAP calls on the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to show leadership and refocus the National Assembly to be able to perform their law-making functions in a manner that will rid the country of impunity for corruption and not embrace or tolerate it.
“Granting senators and representatives immunity and life pensions would neither enhance governance accountability nor contribute to the betterment of Nigerians.
“Nigerians will reject any self-serving attempt by the senators and representatives to tear up section 308 of the 1999 Constitution to grant their leaders immunity from prosecution for corruption and money laundering. Nigerians will also reject the despicable attempt by the senators and representatives to grant themselves life pensions. SERAP will pursue all legal avenues nationally and internationally to compel the senators to drop the immunity and life pension proposals.
“SERAP is worried that the proposal for life pensions is coming from some ex-governors in the National Assembly that continue to enjoy ‘pensions’ for serving as governors for 8 years. This is a gross injustice and double jeopardy for millions of Nigerian pensioners who continue to be denied the fruit of their labour at old age.
“It’s a massive let-down for those elected to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country to prioritise their own personal interests over and above those of millions of Nigerians who continue to suffer the effects of high-level official corruption.
“Rather than engaging in constitutional amendment for personal aggrandisement, the leadership of the National Assembly should encourage the inclusion in the constitution of legal enforcement economic and social rights such as the right to food, to adequate housing, to access to healthcare, to work and on the conditions of service, and to adequate standards of living for millions of Nigerians who continue to live in poverty. Saraki and Dogara should promote constitutional amendment that will ensure and provide legal standing and access to effective remedies for victims of corruption.
“This proposal by the senators is not coming out of the blue. Since the start of his corruption trial, the Senate President, Saraki has worked with other senators to make subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to grant principal officials of the National Assembly immunity from prosecution for corruption and money laundering.”