By David-Chyddy Eleke
Awka — The senator representing Anambra Central senatorial zone, Senator Victor Umeh, has said that Dr Bukola Saraki, is the the most distracted Senate president in the history of Nigeria.
Umeh said the barrage of distractions Saraki had faced in office, including being dragged into an armed robbery attack, was occasioned by the lack of immunity for his office and heads of other arms of government as is the practice with the executive arm.
Umeh, who spoke to journalists in Awka, said Saraki has faced distraction in the discharge of his duties as a Senate President because of injustice and imbalance of power for heads of the executive arm of government to enjoy immunity to the exclusion of the two other organs of government.
He said: “If President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, takes what he is subjected to, to be the basis for dealing with the presidency, the National Assembly would have been incited into an action that will be very regrettable along the line.
“You can see that he (Saraki) has been undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Court and of recent they have said he is implicated in a bank robbery, dragging his name in the mud.
“Each time we meet at the executive session, we feel so sad about the development but then what do we do? We have to think about Nigeria and our country, not about the president or the presidency.”
Umeh said that the heads of the three arms of government ought to have immunity, just like the executive, adding that the executive, legislature and judiciary were intended to be independent of each other, and not the executive being above of the other two.
according to him, “The National Assembly oversights the executive functions of the federal government and when the executive arm of government begins to trample on the rights of the legislature there is bound to be conflict and that is what we have seen so far, where the Presidency has overstepped its powers in its dealing with the National Assembly.
“Section 88 confers oversight powers on the legislature in dealing with the federal government; it is not the other way round.”
Umeh described the 1999 constitution as the author of the problems of the legislature, saying it was made solely to serve the whims and caprices of a military dictator.
“We have looked at it and we know that these things could be traced to the constitution we are operating. This present constitution, the 1999 constitution, was a constitution that was written for one individual.
“He was gearing towards changing from military president to civilian president and he made a constitution that would make him the overlord; and the people who wrote the constitution gave so much powers to the executive and weakened the legislative arm of the government.
“In the constitution, the president and the vice-president are covered with immunity from prosecution against any form of crime; same as governors and deputy governors.
“And the head of the legislature or the presiding officers of the legislature were not covered with any form of immunity. In other words, they can be prosecuted for any criminal allegation and so on.
“But we (senators) believe that there should be balance of privileges in the constitution. If the constitution that creates the executive arm, the legislative arm and the judiciary and envisage that they should be independent of each other they ought to enjoy equal protection under the constitution.
“The privileges ought to be equal. A situation where you leave the entire National Assembly to the whims and caprices of the president makes it to be weak in the discharge of its functions,” he said.
Umeh, who listed the hierarchy of the country said the president was number one, followed by the vice-president, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, and the Chief Judge of the federation and so on.
He however expressed surprise that the constitution gave immunity to the president and vice-president, then jumped all the other officials in the line to governor of a state and his deputy and gave them immunity.
He said: “For there to be balance in the discharge of our functions, the Senate president, the deputy Senate president, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Speaker of various Houses of Assemblies and their deputies should have immunity.”