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+HURIWA CONDEMNS SENATE OVER CONFERMENT OF IMMUNITY ON SELVES

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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A democracy inclined Non-Governmental organization-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has carpeted the Nigerian Senate over attempt to confer limited or unlimited immunity from prosecution for themselves while in the chambers even as the Rights group has asked the joint National Assembly Constitutional amendment harmonization committee to maintain the version adopted by the Federal House of Representatives on the aspect of changes made by the lower chamber regarding withholding of the section 308[1] which hitherto conferred immunity from prosecution for governors, deputy governors, President and Vice President.

''The senate should borrow a leaf from the house of representatives by removing this notorious immunity provision which is like a wild card for these category of executive politicians to commit heinous crime and massive corruption. The removal of this immunity clause is a positive dimension and indeed constitute a revolutionary step by the house of representatives to actually empower the generality of Nigerians to own the process of anti-graft war.''

Conversely, the Rights group was full of praises for the Senate for including provisions in the proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which will grant autonomy to the Local Government Councils in Nigeria and the abolition of the highly compromised States Independent Electoral Commission [SIEC]. The Rights group affirmed that granting autonomy to local government councils will enhance the practice of good governance and quality leadership.

In a statement which was signed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Director of Media Affairs Miss Zainab Yusuf, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] categorically condemned what it calls the hasty inordinate ambitions of the Senators to convert themselves into emperors by granting immunity of whatever form or shape on themselves while in the line of duty.

HURIWA which commended the heroic decision of the House of Representatives chamber of the National Assembly in striking off the notorious section 308[1] of the 1999 constitution which grants immunity from prosecution to certain executive political office holders also expressed shock and consternation as to the rationale why the Senate should try to play smart by restoring the immunity clause as contained in the extant constitution which is undergoing amendment but further aggravated the 'irrational scheming' by conferring on themselves certain categories of immunity. ''This primitive acquisition of crude immunity clause for mere selfish and undemocratic reasons by the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly must stand condemnable and is hereby repudiated for being the classical case of attempting to steal powers that does not belong to these politicians.''

On a positive note the Rights group commended certain far- reaching and radical transformational provisions introduced by the Senate such as allowing for independent candidates in the national and local elections and the conferment of autonomy to local government councils which according to it will restore meaning and pragmatic relevance to section 7 of the 1999 constitution which has always prescribed democracy as the best way of constituting the leadership structures at the local government council level. HURIWA also applauded the Senate for abolishing the heavily compromised state independent electoral commissions [SIECS] which according to it has always been manipulated by state governors to install their handpicked bootlickers and sycophants as council executive and legislative leaders.

HURIWA said thus; ''We are particularly delighted that the National Assembly has finally decided to liberate the local government councils from the enslavement that the 36 state governors have hitherto imposed on them which seriously undermined infrastructural development of these local government councils over the last fifteen years or so that the 1999 constitution came into effect. The stifling of freedoms and independence of the local government councils by these state governors have further escalated poverty among the rural populace and engendered rural- urban migrations which consequently meant that the population of active farmers have always been on the progressive decline.''