SAN calls for removal of Section 308 from 1999 Constitution 

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed, has called for the removal of Section 308, from the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (as amended).

He stated this during a chat with judiciary correspondents in Abuja, insisting that corruption, which, according to him, had  irtually eaten deep into the fabrics of the country’s democratic governance, is traceable to the immunity clause.

The silk, who regretted having moved round the world and conducted research, said there was no where  where governors and their deputies are immune from prosecution.

He, therefore, urged the National Assembly to expunge the section from the constitution, if the fight against corruption must be won.

Section 308 of the Constitution states that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office.

With specific reference to the President, Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor, it stated further that a person to whom the section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise.

Against the backdrop, the senior lawyer urged the National Assembly to look at Section 308 with a view to removing same from the Constitution. 

While justifying his position, Ndarani argued that Section 308 of the Constitution often referred to as the Immunity Clause, has aided corruption in Nigeria.

Immunity being enjoyed by some political class, according to the learned silk, has a linkage with the socio-economic and political problems affecting the country’s growth.

He said: “Nigeria needs a complete legal surgery. Some of the problems in this country are caused by governors and their deputies because some of them hide under Section 308 of the Constitution to perpetrate all manner of things.

“In view of this, I call on the National Assembly to look at Section 308, nullify it, water it down, strike it down or remove it to a level where we can have accountability and responsibility from governors.

 “I don’t believe in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which bestows immunity on the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors of 36 States of the Federation.

“Globally, immunity clauses can be acceptable for the President and the Vice-President, but honestly, I am not totally happy with it being applied to governors and deputy governors.”

“The immunity clause (section 308) that is embedded in the 1999 Constitution is mischievous, contradictory and violates the rule of law, ” Ndarani said.

“Immunity Clause does not take cognizance of equality before the law, nor does it take cognizance of fair hearing, nor equal access to the court.

“If all the governors of the 36 States of the Federation are immune, how can you promote equality before the law?” the SAN queried.

“This set of political office holders can’t be prosecuted or even be compelled to come to court to give testimony. Globally, no country has this in its Constitution,” he posited.

“How will you fight corruption (in Nigeria) when you know that some group of people cannot be sued or prosecuted, yet we operate a constitution that provides for equality of all citizens before the law.

“Immunity Clause gives room for impunity for certain groups of people, and a certain number of governors are using Section 308 of the Constitution for shade.

“If we are seriously fighting corruption, Section 308 and some other sections should be removed for there to be even development and economic prosperity” Ndarani Mohammed said.

 “Even Section 44(3) of the Constitution, which is an impediment to resource control should also be expunged so that States can be allowed to produce and grow their economies because the Federal Government alone cannot provide all the needs of States.” he further added. 

While supporting the call for a new Constitution, he added that “Nigeria doesn’t need one to be panel-beaten around. Even Section 16 which talks about the economy of the country, should be reviewed.”

Contrary to arguments in some quarters that removal of the immunity clause will expose governors to litigations and distractions, he said: “If you are prudent, accountable and not corrupt as a governor, you don’t have to be afraid.”