Constitution Review: Governors may lose immunity for criminal offences
Posted by News Express | 1 February 2022 | 362 times
•Senate President Ahmad Lawan
The much-awaited amendment of the 1999 Constitution is winding down this week and major inclusions have been reportedly made into the new rule book.
News went round on Monday that the recommendations so far made by experts guiding the federal lawmakers in the assignment are listed for ratification this weekend.
A two-day arrangement has been made for the experts and the federal lawmakers to have a final look at the recommendations before the final consideration.
A major recommendation by the experts is the removal of immunity for criminal offences for those currently covered by the controversial Section 308 of the constitution.
Those captured under it include the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors.
If the amendment is ratified at the meeting scheduled for Friday and Saturday, governors indicted for criminal offences will henceforth be impeached and prosecuted.
Under consideration also is making sexual harassment an impeachable offence for those covered by the constitutional immunity.
Also listed as an impeachable offence is disobedience to court order. Another major recommendation made by the experts and the federal lawmakers serving on the National Assembly joint constitution review committee is the final movement of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal to the judiciary.
The chairman of the bureau and staff are now to be appointed by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the tribunal is to be superintended over by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The tribunal gained prominence in 2019 when it issued an interim order removing the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, from office over alleged failure to fully declare his asset.
The tribunal was widely panned for the curious order, but President Muhammadu Buhari acted on it, sacking Justice Onnoghen from office.
The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, also got involved in a street fight in April 2021 but a probe instituted by the Senate over the alleged assault had no traction.
It has now been recommended in the amended constitution that the chair of the tribunal should be a qualified judge, while the membership was also expanded from three to six, with each of the six geopolitical zones now to be represented.
Despite the retention of NJC in the soon-to-be unveiled amended constitution, Nigerian Tribune learnt that former governors who are now federal lawmakers are still unrelenting in getting the federal body scrapped.
Twenty-three states were identified as having had issues with the council at one time or the other over the appointment of judges for states.
Another recommendation by the experts is clearing female judges to be chief judges in their husbands’ states of origin, terminating the controversy over their true states of origin.
The current practice of states denying female judges the highest judicial position for not being originally from such states was generally viewed as discriminatory and rejected by all participants.
Nationwide representations, according to a source, overwhelmingly voted for NJC to go, leaving states to appoint their judges and cater for them as enshrined in the 1963 and 1979 constitutions.
Despite the widespread sentiment, the council was retained as a child of necessity but it is almost certain that states would be empowered in the amended constitution to appoint their judges without any inputs from NJC again. (Nigerian Tribune)