The National Assembly, few days ago, cited 12 national issues and threatened to invoke constitutional provisions of impeachment against President Muhammadu Buhari if the issues are not quickly addressed. SOLOMON AYADO writes
No one could ever believe that the National Assembly would dare the Presidency in such a fearless manner it did. Although there are several issues that are affecting national unity, growth and development that require the wand of both the executive and legislature.
The many challenges facing the country today including economic instability and insecurity can be adduced to be seemingly insurmountable.
Specifically, the rampant killings across the country have become a decimal and the relevant authorities have appeared helpless in evolving proactive measures to end it.
This, among other things, was why the Senate and House of Representatives converged and took drastic legislative actions on the issues bedevilling the country. The lawmakers are concerned that the image of the nation is battered and that the needed unity and development is not being achieved hence the numerous troubles facing the country are not abated.
It was precisely on Tuesday, 5 June, 2018 when the National Assembly held an emergency joint session and resolved to invoke constitutional powers by way of impeachment on President Muhammadu Buhari if the resolutions by lawmakers on the state of the nation are not implemented by the Presidency.
Section 143 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the National Assembly to impeach the President among others.
However, the joint executive session which was held behind closed-doors began at about 11.am and lasted till 4.pm.
Before the joint session, the Senate had held an executive session for about 1 hour 30 minutes before the senators moved to join their counterparts in the House of Representatives for a joint session.
The joint session was held in the House of Representatives Chambers. Both members of the ruling APC and opposition PDP were in attendance.
Journalists were barred from coverage as lawmakers were said to have engaged in marathon discussions on several burning national issues especially on the rampant killings across the country.
The lawmakers are worried that a lot of issues are affecting stability of democracy and general growth and development of the nation which the Federal Government is not being responsive to address.
There were 12 issues that centred the discussion during the joint session which included killings and general insecurity, persecution of political opponents, insincerity of government on the fight against corruption, unemployment, lack of vote of no confidence on the IGP, and adherence to the rule of law, as well as protection of the sanctity of the National Assembly among others.
For a very long time, the NASS has not converged in such an executive manner. The lawmakers had abandoned all other legislative duties on the fateful day just to discuss concerned national issues.
Presenting the resolutions of National Assembly after the joint session, Chairman of National Assembly, the Senate President Bukola Saraki said “The joint session of the national assembly in closed session resolved that the security agencies must be given a marching order to curtail the killings of Nigerians across the country and protect the lives and properties of Nigerians. This is the primary responsibility of any responsible government.”
He further stated that, “Two, persecution of political opponents must stop. Three, there is the strict adherence to the rule of law and protection of all citizens.
“Four, the President must be held accountable for the actions of his appointees and must be ready to sanction any act which will ridicule the country and our country’s democracy.
“Five, the government should show sincerity to the fight against corruption by not being selective and also prosecute current appointees pending against them.
“Six, the sanctity of the national assembly protected and preserved and prosecute those who invaded the senate to seize the mace.”
Stating further resolutions Saraki said “Elections must be competitive and inclusive [away] from the rule of fear and intimidation, particularly as we approach the forthcoming 2019 elections.
“The National Assembly will meet a few international communities through the IPU ECOWAS parliament, CPA, EU and United Nations to secure our democracy. The National Assembly will also work close with the civil society organizations to further deepen and protect our democracy.
“Resolution nine, the President must take immediate steps to curtail the growing rate of unemployment especially now that we have the advantage of rising oil price.
“Ten, both chambers of the National Assembly pass a vote of confidence on the Senate President and the Speaker and the entire leadership of the national assembly.
“Eleven, we also hereby reaffirm our earlier resolution of the vote of no confidence on the Inspector-General of Police who does nothing but preside over killings of Nigerians and outright disregard for constitutional authority of both the executive and the legislature.
“Finally, the national assembly will not hesitate to invoke its constitutional power if nothing is done to address the bulk of resolutions passed today,” he stated.
Certainly, the resolutions by the National Assembly did not go well with the Presidency.
Reacting to the National Assembly’s impeachment threat and vote of no-confidence passed by the lawmakers, Buhari’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, lamented that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was heading the move while some robbers linked to him were “incarcerated.”
Onochie said this while reacting to a twit by DeeOneAyekooto, who wrote: “Godfather of Armed Robbers passed a VOTE of No Confidence on the Inspector General of Police.”
In her reaction, the Presidential aide, tweeted, “Change means we are all equal before the law. It’s, therefore, unfair and extremely sad that only the young Nigerians who were caught for bank robbery, are being incarcerated. Their alleged accomplice, is sitting in the chamber of the House of Senate making provoking threats.”
But some lawmakers have denied that the National Assembly was plotting to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking on Sunrise Daily on Channels Television, the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Razak Atunwa, said the joint executive session of the two chambers of the Assembly was held to debate on national issues.
The lawmaker representing Asa/Ilorin West constituency in Kwara State, said: “No one mentioned anything about impeaching the president. We dealt on governance matters, matters deepening our democracy. And we came out with resolutions. Those are more important matters to the country.”
Of course, it is not certain whether the impeachment threat can be actualised or not. According to analysts, in the process of impeachment, NASS has 40 per cent powers and Chief Judge of Nigeria has 60 per cent.
Constitutionally, there are steps for impeaching the President. Firstly, a notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the President. This notice must be signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly (both the Senate and House of Representatives) and presented to the Senate President.
Secondly, the Senate President must within seven days, serve the President and each member of the National Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation.
Thirdly, the President has a right of reply (he/she does not have to reply however), and any such statement in reply to the allegation must be served on each member of the National Assembly.
Fourthly, within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Senate President, each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. This motion needs to be passed by at least two-third majority of all members of each House of Assembly.
Fifthly, if the motion fails to reach the required majority, the process immediately stops, and no further action will be taken. However, if the required majority is obtained and the motion is passed, then the Senate President will within seven days of the passing of the motion, request the Chief Justice of Nigeria to appoint a panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity to investigate the allegations. The members of the panel cannot be members of any public service, legislative house or political party.
Sixthly, the panel is to report its findings within three months of being appointed. The findings will be reported to each House of the National Assembly. During the proceedings of the panel, the President shall have a right to defend himself, and shall also have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/her choice.
Decently, where the panel reports that the allegation has not been proven, there will be no further action. However, if the report is that the allegation against the President has been proven, then the National Assembly will consider the report, and a resolution for the adoption of the report shall be moved.
And lastly, for the resolution to be adopted, it must be supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House. Once adopted the President shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
At the moment, it is not sure whether the issues raised by NASS can be appropriate enough to sack the President. Also, it is not satisfactory if the President has lived up to responsibility of ensuring good governance, protection of lives and property.
Be that as it may, the National Assembly has taken its firm position and looking forward for a change in style of leadership by the executive with a view to foster national security, rapid growth and development.
What may be the actual outcome in days to come, whether the legislature would soft pedal on its threat to invoke constitutional provisions and or the executive will rethink and address the raised burning issues, or fight back. It is left to be seen as events unfold.
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