Ayah recently published a comment that the bill on the penal code does not confer immunity on ministers. Several persons have called Ayah for affirmation. Ayah wishes to confirm that his assertion is in tandem with all penal legislation. Penal legislation indirectly prohibits, and then provides for consequences for any infringement. It is civil law that grants or confers. It never has been otherwise.
We want to insist that the claim that Section 127 of the bill confers immunity on ministers is false alarm, and it is utterly misconstrued. Nor is it a new provision as it has facetiously been proclaimed. It is a provision of about half a century old. And its origin is historical.
Southern Cameroons (and de facto West Cameroon) were a parliamentary democracy. As part of the de facto federation of 1961 (West Cameroon and the Republic of Cameroun), “West Cameroon” had a government comprising ministers (called “secretaries of state”) that were primarily members of parliament. In other words, a person could not be appointed minister (“secretary of state”) until he has been elected a member of parliament.
Upon election as a member of parliament, the person automatically acquired immunity. That immunity he continued to enjoy the fact that he was subsequently appointed minister notwithstanding. That surely was the spirit of Section 127 of the penal code when it was enacted in 1967.
We would imagine that the phrase “federal government” was inserted in the section because “secretaries of state were appointed from “West Cameroon” to the federal government. Before any such appointment, the persons had acquired immunity, having been elected as members of “West Cameroon’s House of Assembly”.
Now that Cameroun has but a “presidentialist” system of government, the phrase “member of government” has no place in the penal code. But failure to expunge the phrase does not amount to granting immunity. To repeat ourselves in superfluity, penal legislation never does confer immunity! And to say the least, it is wholly erroneous to hold that Section 127 of the bill on the penal code does confer immunity on ministers in Cameroun.
Ayah Paul Abine