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Senate probes Buhari over constitutional breach

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$496m fighter jets: Let's use constitution to impeach Buhari - Senator Utazi
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• Reps hold fire over planned impeachment
• President has lost moral right to rule, says Fayose

The Senate, yesterday, directed its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate alleged breach of the constitution by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The decision followed condemnation of the president’s withdrawal of $496 million for the purchase of fighter jets without parliamentary approval.

The committee is expected to determine the extent to which the constitution was violated, the circumstances of the infraction, and advise the Senate on steps to take.

The resolution came in response to a motion sponsored by Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) asking the Senate to invoke Section 143 of the constitution in commencement of impeachment proceedings against the president.

The lawmaker said it was procedurally wrong for the president to have withdrawn the money without permission from the National Assembly, submitting that by the action, Section 80 of the constitution has been violated.

Seconding the motion, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) said it was time the Senate invoked the impeachment clause to curb serial abuse of financial regulations.

But Senator Shehu Sani cautioned: “When you set a dangerous precedent, you are simply laying the foundation for the desecration of the institution of democracy. You cannot appropriate what has been spent. You cannot deposit the money that you have spent in the bank. What has happened today is a gross violation of the constitution of Nigeria. But we must understand, that in as much as we are very sensitive, the credibility and usefulness of this government are being constantly tested.”

Senate President Bukola Saraki admitted: “There is a breach of constitution.” He, however, noted: “The question is, what are the circumstances surrounding the breach of the constitution?”

Explaining the lead up to the breach, Saraki said: “I am sure you all remember that it was August, last year, when were on recess that I got the message from the U.S. ambassador that the Senate committee at the Congress of the United States wanted to visit us, because they got a request from President Trump to approve the payment. But they needed approval. I led the team with the House of Representatives’ members and members here, and we met them on this issue.”

Stressing that September to February should have been time enough “for the executive to have carried us along,” Saraki added: “If we all agree, I will put it to vote and refer the matter to the judiciary and give them a short period of time, that by Wednesday, next week, they submit it.”

And rather than initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, as it had threatened, the House of Representatives, yesterday, mandated its Committee on Rules and Business to look into the matter and advise it accordingly.

Earlier, Sergius Ogun (PDP-Edo) warned that the House could become a laughing stock unless it deals decisively with the breach by invoking relevant sections of the constitution.

But Kayode Oladele (APC-Ogun) noted that work on the 2018 budget was still ongoing, therefore Buhari’s request that the cost of the procurement be included in the 2018 budget could still be accommodated.

“I don’t think, as a matter of law, there’s a straightforward answer to this. Yet, on the other hand, we are duty bound to consider it,” said Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the session. “People are looking to this House to protect the constitution. People are looking to us to stand by the truth,” he added.

An All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart, Mr. Edet Ikotidem, however, has accused the House of Representatives of chasing shadows in its bid to impeach Buhari.

He told reporters in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital: “I don’t know what they mean by impeachable offence, because even when you look at the Finance and Management Act, there is a situation where the president can incur expenditure and thereafter present it for ratification by the National Assembly.”

“We are talking about national security. No matter what you say, people are dying and being killed. And we are crying that he (Buhari) is not doing anything. The president in his letter to the National Assembly said it is an emergency situation. He has done what is expected of him. What the National Assembly should be concerned with is what the money was used for.”

Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, meanwhile, has criticised the Federal Government for failing to curb the killings by herdsmen across the country.

Reacting to the latest incident in Benue State, he said: “It is beyond dispute that the Buhari administration has lost the battle against insurgency and Fulani herdsmen. Buhari is helpless, as he is reduced to offering condolences on a daily basis.”

In a statement by his spokesman, Idowu Adelusi, Fayose described the current administration as a “killer government,” stressing: “The Buhari administration has lost all moral right to continue in office.”

He added: “The situation is getting so bad; we don’t know whether the constitution of the country has been unofficially suspended. Nigerians have been unlucky with Buhari as president. He is too old, too analogue, too incompetent, too clueless, and is not ready to admit and yield for a competent leader. This country has never had it this bad.”


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