The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on leadership of the Senate to withdraw summon for Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, to appear before the Senate committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions for allegedly describing the body as ‘childish and irresponsible and one filled by people of questionable characters.
SERAP in a statement on Thursday, signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the Senate’s decision to summon Professor Sagay simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression is arbitrary, a travesty, mala-fide, and cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.
“Suppression of freedom of expression and public discussion is inimical to peace, order, good governance and the rule of law, and patently inconsistent with the Senate’s law-making and oversight functions,” the group said, adding that Senate is not immune from constitutional control simply because it’s a law-making body.
“In fact, the Senate has neither special immunity from the operation of the constitution nor special privilege to invade the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression of Professor Sagay or other citizens for that matter,” Mumuni said.
He said the framers of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) would never have contemplated a legislative power without responsibility, and the Senate cannot continue to carry on in a manner that implies its law-making and oversight powers are not open to question.
Therefore, its powers under the constitution ought to be exercised reasonably and responsibly, consistent with the fundamental notions of peace, order, good governance and the public interest.The human rights of Nigerians are secured against not only executive lawlessness but also legislative excesses. To trample on citizens’ freedom of expression is to thwart the ideals of representative democracy and the rule of law,” the executive director said.
He maintained that National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria but recent events in the Senate would seem to stir the public anger.
He added that it seems curious that Senate would be giving a raw deal to heads of the two leading anti-corruption bodies in the country- the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) acting-chairman, Ibrahim Magu and of (PACAC) chairman, Sagay.
The statement posited that all public institutions and figures are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition, stressing that the Senate in particular and the National Assembly as a whole would do well to respect the inherent rights of Nigerians that are so fundamental to constitutional structure.
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