Lagos- Lawyers in Lagos on Thursday applauded the decision of the National Assembly to retain the immunity clause in the amended 1999 Constitution, describing it as a welcome development.
The immunity clause in Section 308 of the constitution protects the President and Vice President as well as governors and their deputies from prosecution while in office.
The House of Representatives had recommended the removal of the immunity clause in the amended constitution.
However, the Conference Committee of the National Assembly on Constitution Review on Tuesday retained the clause as it was originally provided for in the constitution.
The committee also approved immunity for legislators in respect of words spoken or written in the exercise of their legislative duties.
Also read: National Assembly retains immunity for president, governors
Reacting to the development, the lawyers said in Lagos that the purpose of governance would be defeated if the clause was removed
The Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Alex Muoka, said the decision would help to maintain sanity in the political system.
He said the clause was enshrined in the constitution to serve a purpose and that the aim would be defeated if expunged.
“The immunity clause is for a purpose; the reality is that if we start by electing leaders who are on a mission to lead, then the leaders ought not to be distracted unduly in the cause of leadership.
“Undue distraction, however, does not mean constructive criticisms. In fact, leaders should encourage same, but I am talking about frivolous litigations.
“The purpose of the clause is to ensure that our leaders are not bogged down with law suit as this will mean devoting time to attend court rather than focusing on governance.
“Although several individuals and bodies have called for the scrapping of the clause because of its abuse by some officers. Nevertheless, we must be wary of throwing away the baby with the bath water,” Muoka said.
According to the NBA chairman, a better approach may be to restrict its application instead of a complete obliteration of a clause which has some beneficial effects when properly applied.