HEDA Asks Court to Void Legislative Houses Privileges Act

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A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), has asked the Federal High Court to nullify the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act of 2017, insisting that it confers undue advantages on lawmakers at the expense of the citizens.

The landmark campaign seeking to remove self-made privileges of the National Assembly was launched at the weekend and Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group has hired a prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Kunle Adegoke to lead the legal fireworks.

HEDA said since it was passed in 2017, the self-serving law had made it more difficult for Nigerians to hold the lawmakers to account.

According to HEDA, among others, the law shields lawmakers from facing criminal and civil lawsuits by demanding that anyone who wants to sue a lawmaker must serve a 90-day pre-action on the Assembly.

The Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, argued that these provisions of the law were distasteful and run contrary to the Public Officers Protection Act and Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) which guarantees right of access to court.

The group is, in the suit, is praying the court to declare the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 invalid because its Section 21 is in conflict with sections 6(6)(b) and 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

HEDA said, “While the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) has delimited the powers of the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly, the National Assembly has exceeded its legislative powers in enacting the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 by even conferring the same privileges on Houses of Assembly of states and has taken away the constitutional right of Nigerians to access any court for that matter to seek redress to their grievances.

“While the Act empowers lawmakers to probe Nigerians, it at the same time disempowers the electorate from prying into the activities of the lawmakers. It’s like building a fortress for themselves while leaving those who elected them helpless and down in the cold.”