Lawmakers in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly have been granted immunity from litigation for actions they take while in plenary or during committee proceedings.
This comes as President Muhammadu Buhari gave his assent to the Legislative House Power and Privileges Act which grants legislators at the national and state legislatures immunity from prosecution for anything they do or say while parliament is in session and during committee proceedings.
Senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, who disclosed by to State House correspondents yesterday, said the bill strengthens the power of the lawmakers to carry out their legislative functions.
According to him, the lawmakers now also have powers to summon any person to appear before them and give evidence, including the power of officers of the legislative houses to arrest any person who commits an offense against the Act.
He also said the president assented to the National Institute for Legislative Studies (Amendment) Act which established the institute, widening its powers to include powers to provide training courses and award degrees on Democracy, Party Politics, Electoral Process, Legislative Practice and Procedures, among others.
Another bill assented to was the National Senior Citizens Center Act, 2018, which establishes the National Senior Citizens Centre in the country to cater for the needs of the elderly.
“Others are Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Kingdom of Spain (Domestication and Enforcement ) Act, 2018; Rail Loan (International Bank) (Repeal) Act, 2018; Chartered Institute of Project Managers of Nigeria (Establishment) Act, 2018; Chartered Institute of Local Government and Public Administration Act, 2018 and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (Establishment) Act, 2018, he said .
Legal practitioners have, however, voiced divergent opinions on the immunity granted to lawmakers.
A constitutional lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, however, has said that the immunity law assented to by President Buhari does not change anything for the lawmaker.
According to him, the 1999 Constitution only recognises the immunity granted to the president, the governors and their deputies.
Abayomi said, “The law does not change anything. The 1999 Constitution which is the grundnum does not give them immunity. The law does not improve their situation. The only immunity that stands is the one recognised by the 1999 Constitution.”
Another lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, former national secretary of Labour Party, said the law is not what the country needs now, adding that the immunity granted them is not absolute.
“The law is not what we need now. Legislators have immunity but it is not absolute. Whatsoever they do in the course of their duties may not be used against them. I believe we also need to see the law before we can respond adequately,” he said.
But another Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Kingsley Alo, believes immunity for the legislators is long overdue, saying it will save them from unnecessary distractions.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has described as disgraceful a situation where no refinery in the country is performing up to 50 per cent capacity.
He also pledged that Income accruing to the country from rising oil prices in the international market would be spent on infrastructural development.
President Buhari made these comments when he received a delegation from the oil firm Eni, led by the chief upstream officer, Mr Antonio Vella.
In a statement by his special adviser on media, Femi Adesina, the president said extra funds outside the provision of year 2018 budget “will be deployed to infrastructure projects like roads, rail and power, for the good of our people, and for the development of the country.”
Budget 2018 provisions had been predicated on $45 per barrel by the executive, and the Senate had adjusted it to $47 per barrel. Oil prices have, however, risen to $70 per barrel this week.
President Buhari also appreciated Eni for its upcoming investments in the oil industry, which included the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery and the building of a new one.
“In my first coming, all our refineries were working. Port Harcourt used to refine 60,000 barrels per day, and it was later upgraded to 100,000 barrels. Kaduna and Warri (refineries) were also working optimally, and we used to satisfy the demand of the local market. We equally exported 100,000 barrels of refined petrol. Now, no refinery is performing up to 50 per cent. It is a disgraceful thing,” the president said.
Leader of the Eni delegation, Mr Vella, said his organisation had presented a technical proposal to the NNPC to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt refinery, and had also done feasibility studies on a new refinery of up to 150,000 barrels per day capacity.
“Site selection has been completed, and 50 new graduates have already arrived in Italy for a training that will last seven months.
“There are other upstream initiatives and a deep water project, with estimated expenditure of $13 billion,” Vella disclosed.
The oil company also plans to double power generation capacity from its plant in Delta State from its present 500 MW to 1,000 MW, spending $750 million in the process.
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