National Assembly Complex
By Chuks Okocha and Dele Ogbodo
The presidency Sunday cautioned against the unrelenting threats to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan in the wake of the face-off between the National Assembly and the executive over the poor implementation of the 2012 budget and non-assenting to some bills.
It also clarified the directive for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to halt further proceedings on the planned introduction of the N5, 000 note, saying it was temporary to enable the CBN to carry out the necessary enlightenment of the people before it introduces the higher denomination of the naira.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told reporters in Abuja that the issue of impeachment is being trivialised the way it is being dished out for every alleged offences.
He said: “The conflicts between President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly over the bills that have not been assented to and the non-implementation of resolutions are not peculiar to Nigeria. But the attempts to always threaten the president with impeachment are not in the interest of democracy.
“In the United States with its history of over 200 years of democracy, only President Johnson was impeached in 1868, while President Bill Clinton was only impeached by the House of Representatives. The threat of impeachment to President Jonathan is too rampant.
“The intentions of the National Assembly and the president are the same, but in the process, there arose some conflicts. Our appeal is that there should be moderation. There is need to allow the temperature of the polity to calm down. We must ensure that it does not lead to strangulation in the polity. The legislators have the power to impeach the president, but not on every disagreement,” he said.
Okupe also called for dialogue between both arms of government in the resolution of the dispute between them.
According to him, “if the president has not signed the bills passed by the National Assembly or implemented the resolutions, there must be some reasons lingering in his mind. It is better to err on the side of carefulness than to commit an error that would cause a great crisis in the country.”
He called on the National Assembly to embrace dialogue, as there is nothing personal in the president not signing the bills and implementing the resolutions of the National Assembly.
Accordingly, he said: “That the president has not signed the bills is not an act of neglect by the president against the National Assembly, but there is need for the president to consult widely before signing such bills.”
Okupe also expressed the presidency’s disagreement with a statement credited to Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka that Jonathan is suffering from bad conscience, saying, “It is wrong for Prof. Wole Soyinka to say that the president is suffering from bad conscience. If he was, he would not have stopped the printing of the N5, 000 notes.”
“It is equally wrong for Pastor Tunde Bakare to say that what the president said could be summarised as bunkum, which means rubbish. This is not fair. Today, Jonathan is the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and any other person could be president after him and therefore there is the need to accord respect to the office of the President,” Okupe said.
Meanwhile a three-time senator representing Abia North senatorial district, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, has refuted a newspaper report credited to him, alleging that he was collecting signatures from senators to compel President Goodluck Jonathan’s impeachment.
The newspaper had last Friday stated: “Senators on Thursday faulted President Goodluck Jonathan for his refusal to implement the Senate’s resolutions on the probe panel report on privatisation in the country.”
Reacting to report in a signed statement at the weekend, Chukwumerije said: “The press reports that I was leading a move to impeach President Jonathan are untrue and a gross misrepresentation of aspects of my brief speech in Senate last Thursday.”
In the explanatory statement on what transpired during that day’s plenary, he said: “My speech referred to mobilisation of colleagues to co-sponsor a motion urging early implementation of the recommendations of the Senate Committee on Privatisation. This is a routine Senate procedure for a motion that should carry the full weight of the chambers.
“The delay in implementing the Ahmed Lawan Privatisation Report, which exposed in clinical details, the massive siphoning of public funds to private hands demands such a robust remedial action. This move is certainly not a mobilisation for impeachment.”
According to Senator Chukwumerije, “the mention of impeachment at the tail end of the speech is a reminder of the ultimate weapon of Parliament sign-posting, like a sword of Damocles, the distant reaches of elastic public goodwill. It is definitely not a move, immediate or long-term, against Jonathan regime.”