A Complacent President And A Docile NASS – By Kazeem Akintunde
The Senate rose from its long self-induced slumber last week to give a complacent President Muhammadu Buhari six weeks to wake up and tackle rising insecurity in the land or be thrown under the bus.
Some members of the upper legislative chamber led by PDP Senate minority leader, Philip Aduda, on Wednesday, raised a point of order on the floor of the senate on the need to discuss the rising insecurity in the country, particularly the threat by terrorists to storm Abuja and kidnap President Buhari and Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-rufai.
Fearing that they may no longer be safe in the Federal Capital Territory which has become home to many of the lawmakers as they could no longer return to their constituents due to the activities of the marauding insurgents, the senators, many of whom are members of the PDP, with few of their colleagues in the ruling APC, attempted to move a motion calling for the impeachment of Buhari but were prevented by Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Not happy with their treatment by Lawan, the lawmakers staged a walkout and later address the media, issuing a six-week ultimatum to Buhari to resolve the security challenges facing the country or face impeachment.
The following day, their colleagues in the House of Representatives also gave similar directives to the President before proceeding on recess. The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, gave the notice after a meeting of the National Assembly PDP Caucus at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja. The meeting was chaired by the Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT), with more than 20 lawmakers in attendance. The lawmakers held a closed-door meeting, after which Elumelu briefed journalists on the resolution reached. He stated that members of the House will also present a formal impeachment notice against the president if the general insecurity in the country is not addressed.
Elumelu said the lower chamber will commence the collation of signatures to trigger impeachment proceedings against Buhari if the security situation is not addressed at the expiration of the six-week ultimatum. According to him, the lawmakers have exhausted all means to address insecurity in the country, through resolutions and security summits, adding that Mr Buhari has ignored all their recommendations. He said the impeachment move is not a partisan matter, but rather, a cross-party affair.
Whether the impeachment plot will fly or not is left for the lawmakers to work out but what is certain is that Nigeria is in dire straits. We have not had it so bad in this country. The tension that has enveloped Abuja now can be felt by many. Nowhere seems safe enough to venture into after 9 p.m. Many are even not comfortable within the four walls of their homes again. Some are even considering relocating to other towns and cities. But tell me, where is safe in Nigeria now?
We have warned severally in the past but those in authority seem not to be bothered by the determination of the terrorists to lay claim to a portion of Nigeria as theirs. What began as a once-in-a-while attack on soft targets from their hideout in Sambisa Forest in Borno State has now spread to Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa, and now the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. They now attack their victims anytime with little or no resistance from any quarter. The attack on Kuje Custodial Correctional Centre, where 64 top commanders of the terrorists were released alongside over 300 other criminals, have emboldened the terrorists and they now have their sight set on the FCT. It is now that the FCT is no longer safe and the lawmakers feel threatened that they are threatening to impeach the President.
The threat by NASS to impeach the president is, however, coming too late, as it is doubtful if it can be successfully carried out by the present National Assembly. Aside the fact that the ruling APC would do whatever it takes to avert the disgraceful move on the president with few months left to his handing over to a new administration, ethnicity and religion will also come into play while the stringent measures put in the 1999 constitution may also work against the lawmakers.
Indeed, the position of the constitution on the impeachment of the president, and vice-president are very tough. Section 143 of the 1999 constitution provides the process for the removal of the President or Vice-President. And to commence the process, a notice to impeach must be signed by one-third (1/3) of the members of the National Assembly. Section 143(2) of the constitution provides that impeachment is possible “whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly.”
The National Assembly is made up of 109 senators and 360 House of Representatives members. One-third of the National Assembly stands at 157. Furthermore, the notice, which must contain the offence of the president, must be presented to the President of the Senate, who has the responsibility to serve the notice to the president and every member of the National Assembly within seven days. The motion must also get the approval of two-thirds (2/3) of members of each chamber before an investigation could be launched;
(b) stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice-President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified, the President of the Senate shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice cause a copy thereof to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the National Assembly, and shall also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office to be served on each member of the National Assembly.
(3) Within fourteen days of the presentation of the notice to the President of the Senate (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice), each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.
(4) A motion of the National Assembly that the allegation being investigated shall not be declared as having been passed unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.
(5) Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provisions, the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall, at the request of the President of the Senate, appoint a Panel of seven persons who, in his opinion, are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provide in this section.
(6) The holder of an office whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person and be represented before the Panel by legal practitioners of his own choice.
(7) A Panel appointed under this section shall –
(a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the National Assembly; and
(b) within three months of its appointment, report its findings to each House of the National Assembly.
(8) Where the Panel reports to each House of the National Assembly that the allegation has not been proven, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.
(9) Where the report of the Panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office has been proven, then within fourteen days of the receipt of the report at the House, the National Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly, supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
It is quite clear from the above constitutional provisions that it may be difficult for the lawmakers to impeach the President but that an attempt was made would be on record. The present situation is not what many Nigerians bargained for when they voted for a retired Army General as president in 2015. It is so bad that rag-tag insurgents, seemingly aided by those in authority could lay ambush for the brigade of guards in Bwari and successfully attack the advanced team of the convoy of Mr. President.
No doubt, Nigeria is technically and emphatically in a state of war.
If terrorists are now threatening to kidnap a complacent President, we should fear for the country. We are on a gradual slope towards becoming a failed state. Coupled with the rising cost of living, many Nigerians are at their wit’s end.
When we warned that a train network linking Nigeria to Maradi in Niger Republic couldn’t be much of economic importance to Nigeria than a train network that would link Lagos to Abuja, many Nigerians were told that they lacked the foresight of the economic importance that would come from the Maradi linkage. Even before the train network is completed, Nigeria has become a home to many Fulani from Niger, Mali, Senegal, and other parts of Africa. Many Nigerians won’t even mind being their brother’s keepers but those brothers are now after the jugular of their host.
When we warned that a normal human being should not cherish living in the bush in this 21st century, we were told that we are jealous of the Hausa-Fulani cattle rearer who have taking the forest as their home. From the forest, they launched attacks on those living in the cities and return to the bush after perpetrating their atrocities. A Fulani president that is at home with his kinsmen saw nothing wrong in that and was more concerned about establishing grazing routes for cows.
When there was a fierce battle between cattle rearers and farmers as farmland and cultivated farm produce became food for cattle, we were told that we hated cattle- rearers and that they have the right to move their herds anywhere, and literally, that farmers could go to hell. Many have indeed abandoned farming and now food prices have gone beyond the roof and many Nigerians now have permanent companions in hunger and want.
Now that his fellow brethren from Nigeria and those imported from other African Countries are now threatening to abduct him, perhaps, the war against terror will now receive the much-needed impetus.
The threat to impeach the President should be discarded, as it won’t serve any useful purpose. Rather, the military should take the war to the terrorists since their locations are known. Sitting and waiting to defend when they attack should not be condoned again. We have the men and equipment to prosecute the war successfully if senior military personnel seemingly feeding fat from the crisis would have a rethink.
See you next week.