The House of Representatives has begun a process to sanction the Nigeria Police and other security agencies and their operatives who fail to enforce arrest warrants issued by the National Assembly.
The House, in a bill sponsored by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila and Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, which passed second reading on Thursday, will however exonerate the security agencies and agents if the person summoned enjoys immunity.
The bill seeks to amend the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017, to “prescribe the offence and punishment for contempt of legislative houses, provide punishment for the police or any other law enforcement agent that refuses to arrest any person as directed by a legislative house.”
The proposed law would “provide exception to the kind of person to be compelled by a legislative house, such as president (and vice-president), the executive governor and the deputy, diplomats and their agents, representatives of international organisations such as the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, ECOWAS and Commonwealth.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr Hassan Fulata, who led debate on the bill as Gbajabiamila presided over the session, said the bill sought to address the lacuna in the existing law.
Fulata recalled that recent efforts by the House to resolve critical national issues had been frustrated by individuals through their non-appearance before committees.
He said, “The bill seeks to criminalise these non-appearances as is in international practice. The bill seeks to ensure the punishment also serves as a deterrent to defaulters.”
The Speaker, in his ruling, stated that contempt for parliament was not just a Nigerian problem and should be punishable as it frustrates the functions of parliament.
Also on Thursday, the House passed for second reading, a bill seeking to make attachment of portfolios compulsory when a president or governor nominates ministers or commissioners, respectively.
The proposed law, which was sponsored by Mr Ben Igbakpa would also set a deadline for the president or governor to form a cabinet while the nominees must prove that they had declared their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau.