ABUJA—MIFFED by his unilateral decision to expend the whopping $496,374,470.00 for the purchase of Super Tucano aircraft, members of the House of Representatives almost began moves to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawmakers queried the powers of President Muhammadu Buhari to appropriate and spend money without any recourse to the National Assembly, which statutory function it was to give approval to all national expenditures. The queries were occasioned by the reading of a letter from the President by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, at resumption of plenary yesterday. Dated April 13, 2018, and titled “Supplementary input to the 2018 appropriation bill: Purchase of Super Tucano aircraft from the United States Government”, part of the letter read: “I wish to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to the ongoing security emergencies in the country.’These challenges were discussed with the state governors and subsequently at the meeting of the National Economic Council on December 14, 2017, where a resolution was passed with the council approving that up to US$1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation.
“In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialized aircraft which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496,374,470.00. This was paid directly to the Treasury of the United States.” Usually, presidential communications are not debated but hardly had Dogara finished reading the letter with a long title than the House erupted into anger against the decision and action of the President. Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State was the first person to raise a Point of Order, saying: “There is no language on the presidential approval. The expenditure has already been secured without any approval. We cannot sit down and do nothing. National assembly is not a rubber stamp. Today , it is as if we are like dogs that cannot bark. It is an impeachable offence”. At this juncture, the atmosphere was fully charged and the thunderous shouts of “yea, yea” welcomed his remarks.
Apparently sensing that the issue was gaining unusual currency and that the members were becoming unanimous in their submission, the speaker, again, intervened, reminding the members that the letter was actually addressed to him. He, however, said a new date would be slated for the debate of the letter, either on impeachment procedure or necessary steps to take. Yet the lawmaker continued: “For three years now, there is no day in the country that people are not being killed. We should commence impeachment now. By our rule, the letter of this nature should not be debated upon but should be carried out with action.’’ Also speaking, Aliyu Madaki (Kano) supported the impeachment move on President Muhammadu Buhari, urging an immediate action from the House. “My brother and colleague, Chinda made same explanation which is very clear and we should follow suit,” he said. In the same vein, Sunday Karimi (Kofi) said President Muhammadu Buhari had broken the law and must face the consequences. “The issue he raised bothered in our responsibility. This is the time to tell Mr. President that we are prepared to serve our people. He has broken the constitution and should be ready to face the consequences. He has spent public money without approval”, he said.
Also speaking, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Onyema Chukwuka, suggested a reply to President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter with a detail on how he had breached the law. “We should talk about this now. What we should talk about now is to reply Mr. President. We should write back to the executive, asking him that he has breached the constitution. And he should be ready to face law. There us one law we all stand by. And he is not different”, he said. In his submission, the Chairman, Rules and Business, Oker Jev said Chinda was putting the cat before the horse, adding that following the House rules, that was the first reading of the Bill. He added that the letter could be debated during second reading. At his stage, the speaker intervened, reminding the House that the issue was related to procedures. and referred the House to the inputs by Jev. But again, the House erupted in deafening shouts of “ yea and nay”. With the House under control, TJ Yusuf (Kogi) asked the House to jettison the sentiment of party affiliations and speak truth to power for Nigerians “What we have here is a letter telling us what he has done. We should drop the idea of being partisan.
It is about Nigeria people. The public don’t know whether you are PDP or APC when they go out there to write about us. It is about all of us,”, he said. Similarly, Samson Okwu said: “This matter is a serious matter and we need to be very careful. It is not an issue that should be politicised and tribalised.” On his part, Shehu Garba asked the House to make the President to also account for the funds spent on petroleum subsidy. “I believe we should not be tribalised. Our letter should also include that the President needs to explain $460 million that was already spent and N4 billion spent on petroleum. It is very annoying for any body to mislead the House. It is an impeachment offence and everybody should stand by it,” he said.