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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 14:35 GMT
Should anyone be above the law?
Governor of Bayelsa state in Nigeria, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha
Legal immunity protects people in office so that they can do their jobs, but what happens when they commit a crime and cannot be prosecuted?

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of Bayelsa state in Nigeria, is charged with money laundering $3.2 million in the UK. Last week he jumped bail to return to Nigeria, where he has immunity. He claims he is innocent.

Immunity can be taken away. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor no longer enjoys immunity from prosecution after being indicted for crimes against humanity. And Zambia's ex-leader, Frederick Chiluba, has also been stripped of his immunity and charged with corruption.

Who should be granted legal immunity and why? When should someone lose the right to immunity? How can we allow our leaders to carry out their duties, whist protecting the public from those who abuse their power?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Law makers should not be law breakers. The law is there for the protection of all and if we go by it we do not need any immunity for anyone," Justice is justice and to be protected.
Besenty Gomez, Kitty Village, The Gambia

From my experience in Nigeria, I think nobody should have immunity, because we do not have enough checks and balances in the system. Ours is a place where money is glorified, and nobody questions how and where the so called rich people get their money in Nigeria.
Dr John Enebeli, London, UK

This concept of legal immunity needs to be revisited, especially in Africa where it is nothing but a fašade to cover up the misdeeds of errant rulers. Legal immunity is supposed to protect the functioning of the state and not to protect anyone from justice.
Anonymous, Nigerian/South Africa

No one should be above the law when it comes to abuse of public trust

Marbue Watkins, Minnesota, USA

No one should be above the law when it comes to abuse of public trust. The law is like a two-edged sword that cuts on both sides. I believe those who advocated the law of immunity from prosecution knew exactly what they were doing. They knew fully well that they would someday fall prey to the same law and they would be let off the hook.
Marbue Watkins, Minnesota, USA

If everyone is equal before the law, then no one should be above the law! To lend credence to such absurdity is to create a 'hard-to-kill' monster, so to speak. Anyone caught violating the law and is proven guilty of such violation must lose immunity immediately for the law to take its course. To let such violator stay in power is to ferment discontent - some of Africa's problems. Monrovia
J. Ernest Kwia, Monrovia, Liberia

Removal of Immunity will make our leaders more responsible

Eze Nwekpa B, Benin City, Nigeria

Immunity has remained a cover for crime and corruption. Removal of Immunity will make our leaders more responsible. Immunity is meant for law abiding citizens and should not be enjoyed by criminals.
Eze Nwekpa B, Benin City, Nigeria

A UK Court has determined that the governor has no immunity outside of Nigerian borders. He should therefore return to London and face his accusers. His behaviour is shameless and uncouth for an elected leader of his status. For once, he should do the right thing by voluntarily returning to London to clear his name since he claims he is innocent. If African leaders do not have immunity or have a clearly defined limited immunity, law enforcement agencies can hold them accountable for their actions while in power.
Phil Tam ┐ Al Alalilbo, Virginia, USA

There should be some level of immunity accorded to elective officials to help them run their constituencies but whenever such officials go against the very law they are supposed to protect, the immunity should be stripped off them.
Ezeilo c, Amsterdam

Commit a crime, pay the price, that how it should be regardless of who you are.
Placide Matsiaba, Gabon

Legal immunity opens up the door for all types of abuses. Commit a crime, pay the price, that how it should be regardless of who you are.
Placide Matsiaba, Port Gentil, Gabon

Anyone who carries out, or orders, gross violations of human rights should automatically lose their immunity. There should be no discussion. Unfortunately this is not the case. And mass murderers often hide behind 'diplomatic immunity'.
Catriona, Hong Kong

Leaders should enjoy some degree of immunity to perform their duties. However, under no circumstances should anybody be immune from prosecution on the grounds of corruption solely due to his political or financial clout.
Brownsville St Michael, Bradford, UK

As soon as it is found that crimes have covered under immunity, the immunity must be waived forthwith. This will serve as a lesson for those that think of immunity as a cover for criminal acts.
Austin Mbewe, Lusaka, Zambia

In Africa no one should be given immunity because it makes African leaders so pigheaded that they believe and behave as if they are not reproachable, unaccountable and above the law.
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe

Our political leaders are abusing this whole immunity idea which was meant for good
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Accra, Ghana

Our political leaders are abusing this whole immunity idea which was meant for good, and I believe the time has come for us to look at those who become our leaders and not look at their money. We have so many people with questionable characters who are leading us because of money. We all believe people leading us should be honourable people so when they are involved in criminal activities they should be dealt with regardless of immunity.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Accra, Ghana.

Our leaders have been hiding under immunity clause to steal and commit atrocities while in power. For them to be accountable to the people, we have to disarm them of the immunity protection.
John Onyeji, Calabar Nigeria

If anyone is to be above the law, why have the law in the first place since the law is intended to govern the behaviour and relationship of all. Everyone should abide by the law and no one should be more superior than the law itself. The law itself should seek to address democracy and legitimacy of rule within a country.
Michael Isheanesu Whacha, Pennsylvania, USA

When a leader's crime has reached international attention, the leader should lose its immunity. In this very case, he should go back to the UK and face his alleged crimes.
Obimdike, US

Nobody should be above the laws of any country but there must be some exceptions when it comes to leaders. I'm not saying leaders should not be prosecuted but they should be prosecuted for appropriate reasons, which should be examined by country's good or qualified lawyers and judges so that everybody in the country is satisfied with the outcome of the judgement.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

The word immunity does not mean much to me, because some leaders govern us badly all in the name of immunity.
Peter Pablo Bainda, Freetown

To say nobody is above the law is very simple, but how practicable it is remains a very big question. The word immunity does not mean much to me, because some leaders govern us badly all in the name of immunity. It should be granted to people based on merit. In Africa, some people will tell you the law is in their pockets, so to them somebody is above the law.
Peter Pablo Bainda, Freetown, Sierra Leone

In my view no one should be granted immunity in Nigeria because the corruption levels have reached an alarming level and only drastic measures can be taken to save the suffering masses. Removing the immunity clause would be the litmus test to determine President Olusegun Obasanjo's sincerity to curb corruption.
Akpee Dinebari, Rivers State, Nigeria


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