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Time for immunity for heads of legislature, judiciary

Time for immunity for heads of legislature, judiciary
November 19
10:59 2021

The recent invasion of the residence of Mary Odili,  a justice of the supreme court in Abuja, has once again brought to the fore arguments on immunity for heads of the judiciary and legislature.

It is instructive to note that only the executive is enjoying immunity while the heads of judiciary and legislature at the state and federal level are at the whims and caprices of the executive.

I think it’s time we tinker a little bit with the constitution and grant immunity to the heads of the other arms of government. If I may ask, who brought the idea that it’s only the executive that deserves autonomy?

Indeed, the only way our democracy can grow and our systems strengthened is the complete independence of all the arms of government.

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I recall that in 2016, operatives of the‎ Department of State Service (DSS) had invaded residences of some judges in Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Gombe in a bid to arrest them.

The crackdown was said to have begun in Gombe state with the arrest of Muazu Pindigi, a justice.

The DSS operatives also invaded the Abuja homes of two supreme court justices, Walter Onnoghen and Sylvester Ngwuta. The secret police also proceeded to the Abuja houses of two judges of the federal high court, Justices Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba.

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Also, I recollect the way the former chief justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was discourteously removed from office.

To be sure it doesn’t happen at the federal level alone. I recall that Bukola Saraki as Kwara state governor in 2009, sacked former chief judge of Kwara state Raliat Elelu-Habeeb. She was however reinstated in 2012 by the supreme court.

Saraki himself as senate president was docked some years ago.

We have also seen governors buying cars for judges in their states as if they are doing the judiciary a favour. This tokenism is insulting to the judiciary.

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For the speakers of the state house of assembly, let’s not even go there. A governor can wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just remove the speaker of the assembly. I make bold to say that the house of assembly in the 36 states is an extension of the government house.

I remember a story of a former state governor of a southwest state who walked into the house of assembly with the appropriation bill and less than 30 minutes later, walked out with the passed budget. The governor played the role of the speaker by hitting the gavel and declaring that the budget has been passed. This is not a comedy movie. It actually happened.

I have lost count of the number of speakers that have been removed by their governors in the last 10 years.

Even at the federal level, I remembered how former President Olusegun Obasanjo changed senate presidents at will.

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Our democracy cannot grow if the president and governors can wake up one morning and decide to change the heads of other arms of government because they want to. Too many powers are concentrated at the hands of the executive leaving the other arms of government at their mercy.

The only way out of this executive banditry is to grant immunity to the heads of legislature and judiciary. This is the way to go.

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