How Lawmakers Bickered over Plan to Impeach Buhari

Federal lawmakers, penultimate week, bickered over threat by opposition legislators to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari, reports Udora Orizu

It’s no longer news that insecurity in the country has reached an alarming point. The continuous upsurge in killings, kidnappings, banditry and invasion of Nigerian territories by Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen and other criminal elements have proven that the current administration has failed to fulfill its electoral promise to win the war on terrorism.

In Nigeria, today, it’s no longer about Boko Haram terrorists killings in the North Eastern part of Nigeria but several other killings across the country. These incessant killings traumatising Nigerians across the country, have led to the renewed calls by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate and the House of Representatives for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The call, according to the opposition lawmakers, is in line with section 143 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which gives the National Assembly the power to remove the President if he is incapable of effectively discharging his duty.

Members of the National Assembly, over the years through resolutions from several motions and bills presented on the floor of both chambers, have sought ways to curb the worsening insecurity. From calls for the sack of service chiefs (who were later compensated for incompetence), inviting the President to brief it on the security situation to urging the President to declare a state of emergency on insecurity, no plenary passes without the lawmakers debating the security issue.

The Call for Buhari’s Impeachment

Back in 2018, during the Eighth National Assembly, some Senators called for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari. Unlike the recent call, which is due to the worsening insecurity, the call was as a result of the Senate’s debate on the unapproved spending of $496 million by the federal government on the purchase of some fighter jets from the US government.

Buhari had approved the withdrawal of the money from the excess crude account without the backing of the national assembly. He subsequently sent a letter to the upper legislative chamber, seeking approval for the expenses, a move that angered the lawmakers.

At plenary on April 26, 2018, some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators including Mathew Urhoghide and Chukwuka Utazi, described the President’s action as an impeachable offence and called on their colleagues to commence impeachment proceedings again the president. The call for impeachment generated a mild drama in the red chamber, with some lawmakers advising against the move.

Again, in December 2020, the PDP caucus, under the leadership of Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) threatened to commence an impeachment process over insecurity and corruption in the country. He urged the lawmakers via a statement to declare Buhari incapacitated, invoking section 144 of the 1999 constitution.

According to the statement, ‘’The caucus wants Nigerians to compel their representatives in the National Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari for gross incompetence and persistent and continuous breach of Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution. The PDP caucus also wants members of the Federal Executive Council to invoke the provisions of Section 144 (1) of the Constitution by declaring that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

‘’It was disheartening to the PDP Caucus that the President has failed to lead Nigerians from the front as he promised. Nigerians are daily and defenselessly killed by terrorists and bandits, while the economy is being freely bled by public officers. The body language of the government is worrisome as it emboldens terrorists in the country. The greater worries for the country, however, is the do-nothing posturing and the effeminate reactions of the presidency and the military that follow the dastardly attacks.’’

Chinda said the reactions of the presidency and the military highlight a certain crassness and lame duck attitude that has for the past five years come to define the Buhari Presidency.

Threats of Sanction

While the PDP backed the call for Buhari’s impeachment, describing it as constitutional and democratic, the House of Representatives at its plenary on December 21, 2020 threatened to take disciplinary measures against Chinda, for calling for the impeachment of President Buhari.

The House Majority Leader, Hon Ado Doguwa said, Chinda was not representing the position of the PDP caucus of the House as he claims and is acting alone.

The PDP, however, weighed in and cautioned the House against punishing Chinda for calling for Buhari’s impeachment over his alleged failure to secure the nation.

The Impeachment Ghost Returns

On May 5, 2021, Senators argued along party lines over, who to blame for the rising insecurity across the country. The PDP Senators accused President Buhari of not only breaching the constitution but also being absent from duty in the face of worsening insecurity bedeviling the country.

While Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party condemned President Buhari’s ‘silence’ in the wake of the kidnappings and killings across the country, those of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) disagreed, saying the Buhari administration was busy tackling insecurity.

The Minority Caucus of the National Assembly, led by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, accused President Buhari of not only breaching the constitution but also being absent from duty on the worsening insecurity bedeviling the country.

Addressing journalists penultimate week, Abaribe said after due consultations, the caucus will at the appropriate time, utilise all constitutional methods and measures available after consultations with our colleagues to do the needful to save the country from collapse.

Abaribe said: ‘’The lives of members of the opposition have been under threat for daring to speak out against the federal government. The minority caucus of the National Assembly expresses very strong concern about the ineptitude and the inability of the APC-led government to arrest the drift to anarchy of our nation at this time. This APC-led government, at inception and during campaigns prior to 2015 elections, made promises to the Nigerian public, the first of which was that they were going to deal with security challenges within their tenure.

‘’Sadly and most unfortunately, from 2015 to date, rather than resolving the security situation, the APC-led federal government had rather broaden the security challenges. So, from the problems of the Northeast, it has spread to other parts of the country. Virtually all parts of Nigeria is now beset with one security challenge or the other. We, therefore, as a caucus, suggest that immediate steps should be taken by governments at all levels to set up proper security infrastructure whether in the mode of State Police and other constitutional reforms to arrest the drift of the nation.’

How APC Responded

In its reaction, the APC Senate caucus said the PDP caucus went too far given the good working relationship in the ninth assembly.

Addressing journalists after over an hour of a closed-door meeting, the APC Senate caucus rejected the plan, saying the utterances of the opposition lawmakers was capable of over-heating an already charged polity.

Chairman of the caucus and Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi said while they understood the role of the opposition in any democracy, however, with the current situation of things in the country, men of good conscience and patriotism were expected to act as leaders and statesmen, rather than play politics with the lives of the citizens.

His words: ‘’In any democracy, the rights to present criticisms and concerns on the state of the nation’s affairs are unassailable. However, while we respect such rights, which come with obligation and responsibility, we are concerned that the statement issued by the Minority Caucus is capable of over-heating an already charged polity in which men of good conscience and patriotism are expected to act as leaders and Statesmen.

‘’While we acknowledge the natural disposition of playing politics, we are worried and disturbed that our colleagues are playing with lives. The unfortunate state of insecurity for which the Senate has continuously debated and issued resolutions to support the actions of the executive under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari in the overriding interest of the public, is too delicate to play with.”

Speaking further, the Senate leader, decried the assertions at some quarters that the President has not been seen efficiently manning the affairs of the country. While describing the assertions as false and cheap politics, Abdullahi said President Buhari and the Service Chiefs were meticulously busy every day and every night in deliberations with a view to addressing the security challenges across the entire country.

Will the Impeachment Process Commence?

The possibility of impeaching the President is very slim, because the ruling APC controls both chambers of the National Assembly. Also, past threats of impeachment failed to yield any result.

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