THE MISSING LEGISLATIVE MACE- MATTERS ARISING
The use of the Mace gained significant momentum and acceptability as the true symbol of Legislative authority, such that, its disappearance, cannot be tolerated. On the 18th of April 2018, a serving Senator, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege representing Delta State Central Senatorial District allegedly led five thugs, disrupted Plenary Session of the Senate and took away the Mace of the Nigerian Senate.
CRIMINAL IMPLICATION OF THE DISRUPTION OF THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE SENATE AND DISSAPPEARANCE WITH THE LEGISLATIVE MACE
By virtue of the Provisions of Section 405 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, it is an offence punishable by three years imprisonment for anyone to assault another with the intention to steal. It was recorded that the Sergeant-at-Arms were assaulted by the perpetrators who allegedly took the Legislative Mace of the Senate, therefore it is our position that they should be arrested and prosecuted under the aforementioned Section.
Also, by the provisions of Section 61 of the Criminal Code Act, 2004, it is an offence to interfere with the exercise of the Lawful power of the Executive. While the heading of this Section attempts to criminalise interference with the Legislature, interference with legislative acts was omitted from the main body of the provision. It would therefore appear that criminal proceedings on this ground may not be sustained against the perpetrators.
In the light of the above, it is our opinion that the foregoing section should be amended to properly capture the intent of the Draftsman thereby criminalising interference with legislative acts. The punishment should also be more severe in order to ensure deterrence.
Furthermore, the provisions of Section 14 of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act(LHPPA), prohibit strangers from entering the House without due permission from the Senate President or Speaker as the case may be. Section 15 makes it an offence punishable with 3 Months imprisonment or a fine of N50.00 or both as punishment for anyone who violates the Provisions of Section 14. Finally, Section 16 (c) , it is an offence to disturb or join in any act that is likely to disturb the proceedings of the Legislative House with 6 months imprisonment or a fine of N100.00 or both.
Therefore, the perpetrators can be prosecuted under the joint provisions of the Criminal Code Act and the LHPPA. The relevant provisions should therefore be revisited and amended to increase the terms of imprisonment and either increase the fine significantly or expunge the option of fine as punishment for the offence.
Premised on the Common Law of England, conventional practices and International Customary law, the National Assembly cannot lawfully hold any Plenary Session without the Legislative Mace. That was why the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ikweremadu on the 18th of April,2018, resorted to the alternate Mace and continued with the Plenary Session notwithstanding this disruption on the Legislative Arm and the political history of this nation in general.
It is our submission that the Provision of Section 61 of the Criminal Code Act should be amended to properly criminalise interference with the exercise of legislative powers to provide for severe punishment thereof. The Provisions of the LHPPA should also be amended to provide for severe terms of imprisonment of the offences referred to in Sections 14,15 and 16, the option of fine should be expunged. Although the LHPPA is silent on the stealing and destruction of the Mace, it is our opinion that the perpetrators may still be prosecuted under Section 405 of the Criminal Code Act, 2004.
Published on Friday, June 1, 2018
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