Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Friday said that the removal of immunity clause from the constitution will not be a welcome idea as being canvassed by some members of the public.
Fashola stated this at a one-day public hearing on the proposed amendment to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly, organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly, held at the Lateef Jakande Auditorium, in Alausa, Ikeja.
Fashola, who noted that the immunity clause as provided in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution should be retained, pointing out that the clause is more for the protection of the office than the office holders.
He said the section preserves the dignity and ensures the effectiveness of administration, adding “while it is regrettable that there may have been actions which are indicative of abuses of the privilege by some office holders, the privilege of immunity is not for the benefit of the office holder.
“Retention of the clause would prevent unfounded allegations of criminality against top public officials which, if allowed, would bring massive distractions.
“Even where the allegation that necessitates trial relates to corruption or other criminal offences, it is trite that time does not run against investigation and prosecution of offenders. What would have been achieved with the removal of the immunity clause could be achieved at the expiration of the tenure of the serving officials,” Fashola said.
Speaking further, the governor described the agitation for the creation of additional states as an attempt to balkanise and dismember the existing states.
Fashola, who noted the huge cost which the administrative machinery and personnel of the new state would cost, stated that instead of demanding for additional states, people should request for additional local government, which he said would enhance development at the grassroots, as well as bring government closer to the people.
“Most states are currently not sufficiently viable to justify further subdivisions. It may well be that the agitation for more inclusiveness in governance and for rapid development may be better addressed by the creation of more local governments than it can be done by the creation more states,” he stated.
On the call for devolution of power, Fashola said this became imperative, noting that the present system backed by the 1999 constitution of the country gives more power to the government at the centre.
On his part, former Minister of Works, Femi Okunnu, said “I don’t think the 1999 constitution is all that bad, it is the way we exercise our powers that is bad.”
He however, called for the removal of Sections 3,4,5,6 and 8 of the Constitution.
While presenting his position, Constitutional lawyer, Itse Sagay, noted that there are lots of power that should be taken away from the federal government and handed over to the states government.
By Akinwunmi King