Human Rights

Senate shelves impeachment moves

The Nigerian Senate has put on hold, the call for impeachment proceedings to be initiated against President Muhammadu Buhari over alleged illegal withdrawal of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and spending of $496million out of it for purchase of Super Tucano Aircrafts from the United States of America.

President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at Wednesday’s plenary, read a letter from President Buhari seeking the approval of the legislature for the withdrawal of $496million from the ECA for the purchase of the military aircraft.

However, President Buhari, in the letter disclosed that the money had been withdrawn and paid to the United States for the 12 Super Tucano aircraft, in anticipation of legislative approval. He said the decision was taken to beat the deadline for the arms deal, because jets are expected to be delivered in 2020.

But when the matter was raised on the floor of the senate, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, urged the Red Chamber to invoke Section 143 of the Constitution against President Buhari over his action.

Senator Urhoghide maintained that the President had breached Section 80 of the Constitution which stipulates that all government’s spending must be appropriated by the legislature.

Incidentally, the senate refused to invoke section 143 of the constitution which makes provisions for impeachment of the President but mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to look at the circumstances of the withdrawal and spending as regards any infractions on the provisions of the constitution.

Senator Urhoghide in making the move further said , the letter of request from the President for inclusion of monies already spent by him without parliamentary approval in the estimates of the yet to be approved 2018 budget is procedurally wrong.

It is very clear that his action has seriously violated the relevant provisions of the constitution and consequences for that as specified in section 143 of the constitution should be carried out by the Senate against him, he said.

In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani called for the refund of the monies for due process to be followed. I believe that the monies that are spent on security is worth it. But, we should be calling for the refund of that money and for due process to be followed. We have seen so much bloodshed but there is the need for us not to circumvent the laws of the land. I believe that we should not impeach the president but ask that the money be returned and due process be followed, he stressed.

But Senator Gbolahan Dada rose in defence of the President by submitting that Buhari acted with the wisdom required of any leader in times of exigency, since the purpose for which the money was withdrawn and spent was for security.

According to Senator Dada who represents Ogun West Senatorial District, the Senate and the House of Representatives may be right to call for impeachment of the President because they have to ensure that the rule of law and procedures are dully followed by the Executive. He however observed that the President was caught in between the devil and the deep blue sea, so he needed to make a wise decision at that moment.

It’s just like a family man whose roof is on fire, does he need to go start seeking approval to quench the fire and leave the household to be consumed by the inferno, he quizzed.

When you have a desperate situation of violence in the land, at that point in time, the President must take a desperate decision to arrest the situation before it engulfed the entire country. So, calling for his impeachment could be a penalty according to the rule of law but the sanction is disproportionate to the infringement of the law because of the exigency that the situation demands.

The impeachment move was further truncated by the submission of Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah representing Kebbi South senatorial district, who suggested that the Senate rather than invoking section 143 against the President, should mandate its committee on Judiciary to look into the entire process and decide whether infractions on provisions of the constitution was committed or not.

He quoted section 83 of the constitution which makes provisions for exigency spending from public accounts by the President before seeking for approval from the National Assembly.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki referred the matter to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for legal advice and report back by Wednesday next week.

Your mandate is to, from the legal point of view, help the senate in establishing the fact whether an infraction has been committed or not on the provisions of the constitution by the President on the said withdrawal upon which the Senate will decide its next line of action, Saraki said.

The committee is expected to turn in its report by Wednesday next week for consideration by the Senate in plenary.

Source: Voice of Nigeria