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When Lawmakers Vent their Anger on Buhari over Worsening Insecurity
Members of Senate met behind closed doors, last week, to discuss the embarrassing security challenges confronting Nigerians and resolved to give President Muhammadu Buhari a six-week ultimatum to address the situation or risk removal from office, Sunday Aborisade reports
In their usual tradition whenever they are embarking on a long holiday, senators started the day of the adjournment with a closed-door session but that of last Wednesday was unusually longer because it lasted for about two hours.
There were speculations that the lawmakers would discuss the worsening insecurity in the country but no one believed that it would lead to a stormy session that invariably forced the opposition senators to stage a walkout.
The members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other minority political parties in the Senate were angry because the Senate President did not implement the resolutions at the closed session.
Part of the deal was that the senators would have the opportunity to discuss the rising insecurity in the country at plenary while they would all resolve to hand over a six-week ultimatum to Buhari, to tackle the scourge or risk impeachment.
Trouble, however started when Lawan failed to honour the agreement reached at the closed-door session and the order paper was not altered to accommodate the public debate on the issue at plenary.
The development forced the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Philip Aduda, representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to draw the Senate President’s attention to the oversight.
Rising under a point of order not cited, he requested the chamber to give a six-week ultimatum to President Buhari to address the issue of insecurity or face impeachment.
Aduda said: “Mr. President, you may wish to recall that during the closed-door session we discussed the issues as they relate to security in the country and all the issues around it.
“And we had also discussed that we are going to come back to plenary to discuss the efforts that have been made so far on the issue of security in the country, after which we give an ultimatum to the President that he resolves this issue, otherwise we give an impeachment notice.”
The Senate President, while delivering a ruling on Aduda’s point of order, faulted the lawmaker for failing to put forward his request in accordance with the upper chamber’s rules, which regulates its proceedings.
Lawan said: “Minority leader, when you’re going to come under a point of order, first, you are supposed to cite the order.
“Secondly, you are supposed to discuss with me what you’re going to raise on the floor. You didn’t.
“Thirdly, we have already passed that stage. So, at this moment, I really don’t know what the point of order is, as such it falls flat on its face.”
Lawan thereafter, instructed the leader of the Senate to proceed with items on the order paper.
Obviously not satisfied with Lawan’s ruling on the matter, the Minority Leader angrily led almost half of the senators in the chambers across all political parties, to stage a walkout.
They chanted “All We Are Saying…Buhari Must Go” “Lawan Must Go,” as they filed out from the red chamber.
The aggrieved PDP senators and some of their APC colleagues and others from All Progressives Grand Alliance, New Nigerian People’s Party, the Labour Party and Young People’s Party, later converged at the Senate Press Centre, to address journalists.
Aduda, who spoke on their behalf, lamented that Lawan stopped the Senate from taking a definite position on the embarrassing security challenges in the country at plenary.
He said: “We went into a closed-door session. Various security issues were discussed at the closed door session.
“We also took into cognisance that the Senate, at various fora, at various times and various meetings, had recommended to the government the steps to be taken to curb this issue of insecurity but we have realised that even Abuja is no more safe.
“So, at the closed session we agreed that we will give the president an ultimatum and if he did not comply, we will move to give an impeachment notice.
“This was our agreement at the executive session but when we came out, the Senate President refused to inform the public of our resolution.
“Since that didn’t happen, we have come here in protest to let Nigerians know that we are with them – that we are worried.
“We staged a walkout from the chambers to register that the security in Nigeria is out of hand and urgent steps need to be taken so that the issues are addressed immediately.
“We have come here to say that we have passed so many resolutions on security, we have given all the support and all the enabling appropriation that they need,” Aduda added.
One of the APC members sighted among the protesting senators was, Adamu Bulkachuwa (Bauchi North). Also sighted were, Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA Abia South), Ibrahim Shekarau (NNPP Kano Central), and Francis Onyewuchi (Labour Party, Imo East).
Some of the APC senators who were not part of the protest actually spoke with THISDAY, on and off the record, and confirmed that the entire Senate actually took the decision to issue the ultimatum and impeachment notice on Buhari.
One of them who spoke on record, Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Smart Adeyemi, said that the decision to serve Buhari, a six–week ultimatum, was a collective position of all the senators at the executive session before the plenary.
He said: “I think it is wrong to say opposition. It was a collective decision of the senate, to give ultimatum – the only difference from what the opposition is eventually saying is a matter of semantics.
“We said that we are giving the president six weeks; they said they are serving impeachment notice immediately. We all agreed that we will move after six weeks.
“The opposition said we must give notice but we say it has to be six weeks ultimatum; they said after six weeks what happens? We said they should wait till after six weeks first. I don’t see any difference.”
Also speaking with journalists, Abaribe, the former minority leader, confirmed that it was a collective decision taken at closed session.
He said: “We all agreed that the impeachment notice should be served on President Buhari if he could not tackle insecurity within the six weeks. It is not opposition parties’ decision.”
When contacted, Senate Spokesperson, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said he was not part of the closed session. He, however, said he was concerned about the insecurity situation in the country.
Members of the opposition in the House of Representatives, in what appeared to be a show of solidarity, were led by their leaders, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, to meet behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss the impeachment threat with their colleagues in the red chamber.
The Senate Minority Leader, Aduda and Elumelu briefed journalists after the joint closed-door meeting.
They said the collection of signatures across party lines for the impeachment, would be taken at the two chambers on resumption in September, if Buhari failed to tackle insecurity before the expiration of their ultimatum.
Aduda maintained that the plan to sack Buhari if he failed to honour their demands, was not the idea of the minority caucus in the Senate but a resolution taken by the entire senators at the closed session held on Wednesday.
Elumelu also told journalists that his colleagues in the green chambers would start collecting signatures as soon as the ultimatum expired in the absence of any improvement in the disturbing security situation in the country.
He said, “They (senators) have given six weeks for Mr. President to address the insecurity that is, of course, affecting this nation, and I want to join on behalf of my colleagues to also say that upon the expiration, we will proffer ways of ensuring that we will gather all the signatures.
“Let me make it clear. Those who are thinking that it is only the issue of PDP or the minority caucus – many of our colleagues under the bipartisanship are affected. Many of them are affected
“We think that it is high time, the insecurity of this nation was addressed. We also have the issue of oil theft which has risen, now making it difficult for us to earn income from oil revenue.
“These and many others are the reasons we are joining our colleagues in the Senate to ask Mr. President to address the insecurity of this nation within six weeks. Otherwise, we will find the constitutional means to ensure that we serve him an impeachment notice.”
Meanwhile, a Human Rights Activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has said that the ultimatum by the lawmakers was unrealistic because they handed down the threat and proceeded on a six-week annual vacation.
He said: “They should not have proceeded on holiday when the house is burning.”
He lamented that the presidency viewed the drama as being spearheaded by the minority caucus in the red chamber.
Falana said: “It is unfortunate that the presidency sees the ultimatum as the handwork of the opposition. It is actually a collective decision.
“Everyone of them especially lawmakers from the APC is also concerned about the insecurity situation in the country. Nigerian constitution demands that government must provide security for its citizenry. No place is secured in Nigeria today which had never happened before not even during the civil wars.”