The Nigerian Senate is toying with the idea of opening up presidents and vice presidents to criminal prosecution even when in office.
A bill to that effect titled: “A Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to qualify criminal liability for certain public officers under Section 308” was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and has passed the second reading.
The bill contemplates that governors and their deputies would equally lose their immunity.
The explanatory memorandum of the Bill stated that: “This act provides for qualification of the immunity clause to exclude immunity for Public Officers referred to in Section 308 from criminal liability where the offence involves misappropriation of funds belonging to the Federal, State or Local Government and also the use of thugs to foment violence.”
Section 308 of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 states that- (1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, but subject to subsection (2) of this section-(a) no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office;
(b) a person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise; and
(c) no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued: Provided that in ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this section applies, no account shall be taken of his period of office.
(2) The provisions of subsection (I) of this section shall not apply to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party.
(3) This section applies to a person holding the office of President or Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor; and the reference in this section to “period of office” is a reference to the period during which the person holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office.
The bill also categorically proposes that a president, vice president, governors and deputy governors will lose their immunity from being investigated by security and anti-graft agencies and courts.