Senate cannot invade Sagay’s freedom of expression – SERAP

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has advised the senate leadership to shelve its plan to summon Itse Sagay, a professor, over a comment he made against the lawmakers.

The human rights advocacy organisation said the senate committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions, which is populated by “childish and irresponsible persons with questionable character”, lacked the moral right to summon Sagay.

SERAP, in a statement by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mummuni, said the proposed invitation of Sagay goes against the constitutional powers of the senate.

“The 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 Prof. Sagay or other citizens for that matter,” he said.

“The framers of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) would never have contemplated a legislative power without responsibility, and the Senate can’t 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 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. It seems curious that the Senate will be giving a raw deal to the heads of the two leading anti-corruption bodies in the country—Ibrahim Magu of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Itse Sagay of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.”

Sagay had earlier informed the senate that he has the constitutional right to air his views, adding that he does not belong to the category of government officials that can be summoned by the lawmakers.

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