Senate says no to immunity for legislators

By The Citizen
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The Senate has rejected calls for immunity for members of the National Assembly, saying it will not pass through the chambers of the Senate.

Briefing journalists after plenary on Tuesday, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said there was no need for immunity for legislators.

According to him, the Legislative Powers and Privileges Act already guarantees immunity for lawmakers with regards to their conduct within the precinct of the National Assembly.

He also confirmed that it had received bound copies of the 2013 Appropriation Act, saying it would begin to go through it to ensure that what was signed into law tallied with what was passed by the National Assembly, adding that the Senate was not certain when the Executive would be presenting the bill to amend the budget to the National Assembly.

He said, 'The Legislative Powers and Privileges Act has already given every legislator immunity for whatever you say on the floor of the chamber. That is already a settled law and fact.

'We have not seen any  bill. It has not been brought before the Senate, as discussed in the House. We do not have that bill ye. When the bill comes to us, if it will ever come to us, that is when we will see the different provisions.

' I would be very surprised if somebody is asking for immunity outside of the chambers of the National Assembly. Why would anybody ask for such? We do not think we would want to grant anybody such.  If there is such a bill, we will look at the merits and demerits.

'Privilege is something that happened within the precinct of the National Assembly.No legislature will seek immunity for whatever he does outside the parliament.'

The House of Representatives, last week, read for the second time a bill seeking for reinforced legislative immunity, as enshrined in the Legislative Powers and Privileges Act.

It seeks to amend Section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution to provide for immunity for lawmakers, both at federal and state levels, so that they are not held liable for decisions or utterances made.

On the budget, Abaribe said the Executive had yet to indicate when it would bring the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, which is expected to amend the 2013 Appropriation Act.

He said the budget, as an 'organic document', would certainly require amendments or corrections; but those corrections would only come by way of a supplementary budget.

He said, 'Just today, each senator is getting a copy of the signed Appropriation Act. I am sure in the next few days, we are going to be frantically looking at the things that are there to be sure that what we see there is what we also passed, and to ensure that each committee, as they go on oversight duties, will be basing their oversight on that document.'

On the Petroleum Industry Bill, Abaribe said the Senate Joint Committee on the bill would commence sitting on Wednesday(today) after its inauguration.