*** Report to sharply divide the Senators
*** As IGP, Idris appears at plenary today
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- THE Senate will today receive the report of the Committee set up last week to investigate President Muhammadu Buhari’s action to pay a whopping sum of $496 million to the United State Government for the purchase of Tucano Aircraft as fighter Jets without approval by the National Assembly.
The Senate had last week Thursday mandated Senator David Umaru, APC, Niger East led Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal matters to investigate the matter and report back at plenary today, Wednesday.
The Committee which was saddled with the responsibility of probing the constitutional breaches committed by the President, was also asked to determine the extent to which the constitution was violated; the circumstances of such violations and advise the Senate on the next line of action.
The report in line with the standing Order and legislative procedures would be laid and then for consideration in another legislative day, but baring any last minute, the matter may come up for debate, just as it will sharply divide the senators when the report is slated for discussions by the Senators.
Senate President Bukola Saraki at plenary saved President Muhammadu Buhari from impeachment moves as being called by some Senators for, just as he stressed that the arguments raised on the matter were valid.
It will be recalled that vexed by President Buhari’s action to pay for the aircraft without first seeking the approval of the National Assembly, some Senators had canvassed for his impeachment.
The Senators who were on the position of impeachment, described the action of the President as a total breach of the Constitution especially section 80 where the procedure for that was not followed by the Executive arm of government, just as they described the President’s action as an impeachable one.
Resolution of the Senate to probe the action of the Presidency last week was sequel to a motion by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South who raised it that the action of President Buhari was a complete violation of the law and asked that section 143 should be invoked.
Senator Urhoghide’s motion came shortly after the deputy Senate leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, APC, Kebbi South presented the Executive Communication on Inclusion of USD 496, 374, 470 (Equivalent of N151, 394, 494, 335.00) in the year 2018 Appropriation Bill that the Senate do consider the request of Mr. President C-n-C on the inclusion of USD 496, 374, 470 (Equivalent of N151, 394, 494, 335.00) only in the year 2018 Appropriation Bill for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft from the US Government.
Senator Urhoghide who asked the Senate to invoke section 143 of the constitution to commence impeachment processes against the President, however drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that it was procedurally wrong for the President to have withdrawn that money without permission from the National Assembly, adding that by the President’s action, section 80 of the constitution has been grossly violated.
According to Urhoghide, there were consequences for such gross violations of the constitution, adding that the Senate should simply invoke section 143 to get the President removed from office.
Senator Urhoghide who came under Orders 15, 42, 52 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as Amended, said, “This matter yesterday was raised by me to say that this request that was sought by Mr President is procedurally wrong. What has been read by the leader this morning was that this matter has been referred to the appropriate committee for the inclusion of this amount of money that has already been spent. This ought to have been the first request to this senate. We must put it on record that this is a violation of procedure as stated in the 1999 constitution….
“The objective of the expenditure is very well established but the procedure is wrong.
“There are serious consequences for violation of our constitution. As a consequence, the only thing we can draw from on this is that we call on you, Mr President, to invoke section 143 of the constitution. Because, what it means is that this matter is not to be investigated. It is clear that this offence has been committed by Mr President.
“I want this senate to resolve that what the president did is procedurally wrong and a violation of our constitution, it must be condemned and of course, the consequences of section 143 of our constitution should be invoked. I so move Mr President.”
The motion was supported by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu North, saying, ” it is an impeachable offence, things must be done in their right perspectives.”
In his remarks at the end of the debate, Senate President Bukola Saraki said, “we all agree that from what has been presented to us, there is a breach of constitution. The question is, what are the circumstances surrounding the breach of the constitution? Whether those circumstances justify the breach of constitution.”
Saraki who stressed the need to adhere for due processes of law, however drew the attention to the example of the United States of America Congress which he said was very rigid, adding, “I am sure you all remember that it was August last year, we were on recess when I got the message from the US 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 of Tucanos but they need approval. Their congress wanted to come to Nigeria to speak with their counterparts and we all had to come back from our vacation and I led the team with the House of Representatives members and members here and we met the members of congress on this issue.”
According to “Between September and February, with all due respect, there was ample time for the executive to have carried us along on this issue. So their argument for and against, I think this arguments are valid and I don’t want us to bring it down to partisanship issues. These are not partisan issues. The suggestion of the leader that let us send it to judiciary to advice if the constitution has been breached, the circumstances surrounding the breach of the constitution and the justification. What do we do going forward in trying to even appropriate because the funds have already been spent, do we go under what the leader has come under or we start the whole process of appropriating.
“I don’t think this exercise is worth it itself because we endorsed it to the US congress. It was after we agreed in September that the US government now went back to give approval to the executive to pay to their own government so they can go ahead and sell this equipment to Nigeria. 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.
“I am not referring it because it is section 83. He has come up with his own interpretation. I am saying is that the only best committee here that can advise us on whether an infraction has taken place or not and how do we move forward to address it normally. By Wednesday, they can bring the report back to us.”
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris who was billed to appear before the Senate last week Thursday to brief the lawmakers at plenary on the ordeal the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Senator Dino Melaye, APC Kogi West has been going through in the hands of the Nigeria Police on alleged illegal possession of ammunition, will today appear before the Senators.
The Inspector-General of Police who failed to appear last week, was said to have travelled with President Muhammadu Buhari on a visit to Bauchi State.
IGP Idris was re-summoned to appear today at 11am, with Senate President Bukola Saraki insisting that he must come in person and that the dignity and Integrity of the Senate must be protected.
Saraki said, “Distinguished colleagues, we have taken the contributions and the general consensus is that we give a specific date, Wednesday 2nd May, 2018 11am, for the IG of Police to appear. But as we do that, I take cue from the comments of the Leader which I have strong views on, is that the dignity and integrity of our democratic authority, we must protect it and we must not allow anybody to show any disrespect or desecrate that authority.