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Yes To State Police, No To Immunity Clause
May 2007, a philosopher Mr. Innocent Odiaka wrote under the sub-theme of “Africa; The Enemy Within”, whereby he listed the lack of good governance, unprecedented insecurity, corruption among political elite and impunity as significant problems that underdeveloped Nigeria and much of Africa.
According to Odiaka, whose major essay titled “Natural Law Precepts: An introspective look at Africa” was published in the May 2007 edition of Sophia, a specialised publication of the National Missionary Seminary of Saint Paul, Abuja, said for Nigeria as well as other African nations to overcome these challenges of under development, both the political leadership and the ordinary citizens must collectively implement far-reaching fundamental solutions that would institutionalise respect for the rule of law and enthronement of good governance.
It is in an attempt to solve these fundamental issues that have kept Nigeria as one of the most dangerous places to live according to recent that the National Assembly recently set out to amend the nation’s Constitution to effectively strengthen the legal framework for the institutionalisation of good governance and to create the enabling legal environment for transparency, democracy, accountability and zero-tolerance to corruption.
Nigeria being the self-acclaimed giant of Africa needs to show good example on how public fund ought to be used to provide public good and services for the benefit and happiness of the greatest number of the citizens.
Following the call by the joint chairman, National Assembly committee on Constitution review Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Nigerians to suggest areas that needed amendments in the Constitution, good-spirited individuals and institutions have sent their memoranda on how best to achieve effective legal and constitutional reforms for Nigeria so that the unprecedented state of insecurity and other manifestations of near -collapse of the nation-state can be resolved.
My group, the Human Rights writers’ Association of Nigeria recently met with the Deputy Senate President and made far- reaching suggestions on how best to give Nigerians the most effective Constitution. Top among the items we discussed was the urgent and immediate need to delete section 308 of the Constitution which grants immunity from prosecution to governors, their deputies, president and his vice, throughout the period of their tenure in office.
The immunity clause as provided for in the Constitution is antithetical to the collective fight against corruption and economic crime. The reason for the removal of this ‘dangerous license’ to loot public funds provided for in the Constitution is justified by the discovery that more than seventy five per cent of all past governors were found to have stolen massive amounts of public fund while in office and such same indicted former public office holders who hid under section 308 to perpetrate this heist have comfortably hired ‘trailer- load’ of senior lawyers paid with stolen fund to undermine their prosecution by the anti-graft agencies that have now become like toothless bulldogs.
Ordinary citizens are now the victims because the social services for which these funds were budgeted for but stolen by these public office holders have disappeared and their fundamental human rights to health, education and importantly, right to life as provided for in section 33(1) have all but become unrealistic.
The immunity clause needs to be removed because it has made the respect for fundamental human rights of citizens highly uncertain since certain categories of public office holders cannot be charged for offences as serious as corruption and economic crime while they are in office. Recently, President Jonathan insulted the listening public when he used a swear word on publicly funded television to denounce the wellconsidered call by Nigerians on him to publicly declare his assets.
Does President Jonathan not know that Nigeria by becoming party to international human rights treaties, necessarily incurs three broad obligations namely, the duties to respect, to protect and to fulfill? I do also support the creation of state police as presently canvassed by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum because the Nigerian Police Force as presently constituted has failed to enforce law and order across the country thereby exposing citizens in Northern Nigeria to terror-related violence and citizens in the South to kidnappers and armed marauders.
Importantly, the Nigerian government owes Nigeria the constitutional obligation to secure our international borders to check the excessive inflow of small arms, heavy weapons and other sophisticated explosive devices which are now used to bomb government institutions and churches in the North.
Onwubiko is the Head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria