$496m Tucano aircraft: Senators call for Buhari’s impeachment, summon President over insecurity

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The Senate on Thursday resolved to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before a joint session of the National Assembly to brief federal lawmakers on the continued killings, maiming and wanton destruction of lives and property in Benue state and other parts of the country.

The upper legislative chamber stated that its leadership would liaise with the leadership of the House of Representatives, which had earlier agreed to summon Buhari, to fix an appropriate date and time for the President to appear and intimate them on security challenges in the country are being tackled.

Meanwhile, contributions by some Senators that there should be the declaration of a state of emergency in the troubled state of Benue was downplayed as the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said they should wait for the President to brief the joint session after which the next line of action” would be decided upon.

The resolutions of the upper legislative chamber was sequel to a motion moved by Senator George Akume (APC, North West) and entitled, ”Continued Killings in Benue State.” He pointed out in his lead debate that despite earlier interventions by the Senate and the deployment of Police and soldiers in the affected areas of the state, human lives and property are still being wasted.

In his presentation, Akume said the Senate “Notes with dismay, the continued killings, maiming and wanton destruction of lives and property in Benue State, particularly Benue North West Senatorial District which comprises of (7) seven Local Governments; Logo and Kwande Local Governments in Benue North East Senatorial District, Agatu and Okpokwu Local Governments in Benue South Senatorial District;

“Notes that these killings have continued unabated since January 2018; Aware that as a consequence, the Federal Government through the Nigerian Army, embarked on a military exercise code named Ayem A’ Kpatuma, or cat race; “Notes that this exercise was intended to curb and curtail these killings and destruction in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Kogi States.”

Earlier, some senators had called for Buhari’s impeachment for not seeking the approval of the National Assembly before withdrawing $496million used for the purchase of aircraft from the United States.

Section 143 of the Nigerian constitution provides for the removal of the president from office.

Buhari had explained that he gave approval for the withdrawal of the fund because he believed the National Assembly would have no objection to his action.

His explanation was conveyed in a letter read at the Senate on Wednesday. A copy of the letter had earlier been sent to the House of Representatives, which yesterday strongly raised objections to the withdrawal of the fund.

Explaining the processes that led to the approval, Buhari wrote, “I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the ongoing security emergencies in the nation. These challenges were discussed with the state governors and subsequently at the meeting of the National Economic Council on the 14th of December 2017 where a resolution was passed with the council approving that up to $1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation.”

But moving a motion on the issue on Thursday, Matthew Uroghide, Edo State, said President Buhari’s move was a violation of the constitution and thus, he should face the consequences.

He prayed the Senate to invoke Section 143 to start the impeachment process of the president.

Seconding the motion, Chukwuka Utazi spoke in support of the move.

“This is an impeachable offence,” an obviously angry Utazi said.

The lawmaker representing Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani described the expenditure for the aircraft as “a gross abuse of the Constitution.”

While clarifying that he was not in support of the impeachment call, ‎Sani asked that the money should be refunded and the transaction started afresh to allow due process.

Senator Abu Ibrahim, however, recalled that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and ‎Goodluck Jonathan made withdrawals from the ECA without seeking National Assembly’s approval.

Describing the impeachment as “a PDP conspiracy,” Ibrahim challenged the opposition lawmakers to name any state governor who benefited from the withdrawals from the ECA and sought the approval of the state House of Assembly before spending the money.

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