In this report, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH examines recent threat to impeach PMB and past impeachment moves by the National Assembly against sitting presidents.
Less than eight months to the February 2019 Presidential Election, the National Assembly on Tuesday June 5, 2018 made out 12-point of woolly and lily-livered resolutions, ostensibly to read President Muhammadu Buhari riot act. The resolutions which are reminiscent of warnings for Buhari to refrain from certain acts or to perform certain acts, were also akin to impeachment notice supposedly served on him by the legislators.
Chief among President Buhari’s sin is the perceived unleashing of the anti-graft agencies and the police on some legislators marked out by him as ‘’undesirables’’, hence the demand by lawmakers that President Buhari must stop interfering in its affairs or face impeachment procedure.
The resolutions which were adopted at what the lawmakers described as an emergency executive session on the state of the nation have also made some people asking; “What do the legislators stand to gain by stirring a hurricane in the run-up to an election?”
A cursory look at the past impeachment motions against past presidents shows that with the exception of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, both ex-Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were served with impeachment notices.
On August 13, 2002, the House of Representatives issued a two-week ultimatum to Obasanjo to resign or face impeachment proceedings. A motion overwhelmingly supported by the 360-member lower chamber accused Obasanjo of corruption, incompetence, breach of the constitution and “inability to steer the ship of state”.
Consequently, the House advised the president “to resign honourably within two weeks from that day. Obasanjo’s failure to implement the 2002 budget, though is the main reason for the threat, he was also accused of disregarding Parliament’s authority, traveling too frequently, and failing to control violence in the country; were among the 17-count charges levelled against him.
By August 14, 2002, Obasanjo’s chief spokesman, the late Tunji Oseni, and Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana declared that Obasanjo will not resign as demanded by the House of Representatives in its motion.
When he appeared on national television on August 24, 2002 to address the charges against him, Obasanjo added fuel to the fire by making light of the crisis, thereby bolstering the case of opponents who accused him of arrogance and authoritarianism. Quick to react, Senate announced on August 26 that it would join the House of Representatives’ charges. On October 7, 2002, the House of Representatives increased the number of charges against him from 17 to 32.
Obasanjo who first christened the impeachment notice by the House of Representatives as a ‘’joke taken too far’’ had to sit down and reply the charges/allegations on September 7, 2002 raised by the lower house, because rather than easing, the crisis however continues. Indeed, Obasanjo’s political troubles appeared to deepen when the Senate threw its weight behind the House of Representatives’ impeachment threat, on August 27, 2002.
Different committees of both houses were then liaising to articulate the basis for charges of breaches of the constitution, incompetence and abetting corruption against Obasanjo, and to prepare for an impeachment process.
The charges revolve around allegations that Obasanjo failed to implement budgets passed in three years according to the appropriation law, but also to address military operations he ordered in which hundreds of people were killed at Odi , Bayelsa state in 1999 and at Zaki Biam, Benue state in 2001.
As usual, opinion on the crisis facing Obasanjo got divided along the major ethnic fault lines: many northern, Hausa-speaking Muslims, who had shown great electoral support for him, believe he has failed to live up to expectations and want to see his back; yet in the southwest, where he fared badly in elections having been perceived as a northern stooge, the impeachment threat is now seen as an affront to his whole Yoruba tribe.
The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) militia group, which purports to defend the interests of the Yoruba, declared that southwest will move to secede if Obasanjo is removed from office.
“We believe from the statement of the House of Representatives that this is a carefully planned move to finally rubbish the Yoruba as a people,” Fredrick Fasehun, medical doctor and OPC president, said in a statement.
Governors of the six southwestern states, who belong to the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD), also weighed in on the side of Obasanjo. Ex-Governor Segun Osoba of Obasanjo’s home state, Ogun, described the impeachment move as an attempt to bring the military back to power.
In the southeast, responses have ranged from the indifferent to pointedly anti-Obasanjo feelings. According to one Elliot Uko of the Igbo Youth Movement, the president deserves to be removed from office because of his “dictatorial tendencies and abysmal performance” in office.
In the south-south, Obasanjo’s perceived failure to redeem electoral promises made to the oil region and his inclination to concentrate oil revenues in the coffers of the federal government, have not enamoured either him to the ethnic minorities of the area.
The then president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Mr. Adams Oshiomhole also chided the Reps, saying impeachment could not solve Nigeria’s problems.om the date of this motion or face impeachment
THREAT TO IMPEACH EX-PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN
By the time several PDP senators and House of Representatives members lost the tickets for their return during the party’s congresses of November 2014, they turned round accusing Jonathan for working against their political interests in their various states.
By December 2, 2014, Senator Alkali Jajere, who then was representing Yobe South said not less than 63 Senators then have signed an impeachment notice prepared against Jonathan, with dozens of charges held against him.
Jajere, a member of the APC, told journalists on December 2, 2014 that the move to remove Jonathan was gathering support in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Top on the list of the allegations was Jonathan’s refusal to sign 120 bills into law. Jonathan was expected to explain why he could not curtail the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the non-release of the abducted 219 Chibok girls.
Others include alleged violation of the constitution/ Oath of Office; failure to implement recommendations of panels/ committees; setting up of ill-conceived, “nebulous” groups like TAN for re-election campaign outside the Electoral Act; failure to establish and inaugurate the Nigeria Police Council; illegal deployment of Armed Forces and sowing seed of hatred and turning one part of the country against the other.”
“In 2011, this senate approved 140b as subsidy fund but the same government went to spend 1.7 trillion and that is a clear breach of the constitution, clear breach of the Appropriation Act which is the number one Act,” he said.
“And the business of any government is to protect the lives and properties of its citizens and this government has shown it is incurably deficient in handling security situations in this country, and whoever is heading this government should honourably resign without being impeached’’, Jajere said.
Perhaps, after allegedly signing N17 billion as contained in the former Finance Minister, Okonjo- Iwela’s book for the senators re-election fund, the impeachment moves died its natural death. Moreso, election was billed to take place by February 2015.
PMB’s IMPEACHMENT PROJECT
President Buhari first majorly crossed the red line when he wrote a letter to both the senate and the House of Representatives Saraki, requesting them for ‘anticipatory approval’ for the release of $496,374,470 to purchase 12 Super Tucano aircraft from USA.
By the time Speaker Yakubu Dogara read the letter in the lower house on April 24, 2018, Rep members insisted Buhari committed an “impeachable offence” by authorising the purchase of $463million jets for the military without appropriation by the National Assembly.
Saraki read similar letter on the floor of the senate on April 25, 2018 but deferred the debate on the matter till the following day. That was when the senate committee chairman on public accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo, PDP) raised a point of order, citing Orders 15, 42 & 52, says this matter should be forwarded to the appropriate committee. The President’s request is wrong, it’s a violation of our process, proceedings and the 1999 Constitution. It’s a violation of Section 80 subsection 1, 2, 3, 4. The procedure of the expenditure is wrong. There ought to be an appropriation before such an expenditure.
“There are serious consequences for violation of our constitution. 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’’, Urhoghide said.
The matter was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further investigation and guidance, ostensibly to compile impeachment charges. The committee was asked to submit its report by May 3, 2018.
Perhaps, what happened to Senator Urhoghide at the Benin Airport on Friday was informative enough. He was rough handled by thugs in the presence of Edo state Governor Godwin Obaseki and Edo state commissioner of police. His cap was removed from his head, according to the senator himself.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator David Umaru (Niger, APC) avoided attending the senate plenary until the issue fizzled out, that report has never been submitted; just as no senator ever demanded for it too.
The underlining factor leading to flexing of muscle on the floors of both the lower and upper chambers is what the human right activist, Femi Falana (SAN) refer to as ‘’class war’’. Shortly before Buhari’s letter for ‘anticipatory approval’ for the release of $496m to purchase 12 Super Tucano aircraft from USA were arrests of Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi west) and Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta) over allegations of gun-running and financial crimes.
Aside Melaye and Nwaoboshi, there were reports that 10 others have been penciled down by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for arrest. Senator Jonah Jang (PDP, Plateau) was building up as he was grilled for hours at the EFCC’s headquarters over allegation of financial crimes. This is just as the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has filed ex-parte application for interim forfeiture order over properties of Senator Bassey Akpan (Akwa-Ibom, PDP) he allegedly failed to declare at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). EFCC was also on him too. Besides, several governors turned senators are standing trial in the courts for financial crimes by the EFCC.
Perhaps, the biggest shock to the senators and Reps members that triggered the first ever joint National Assembly ‘’Executive Session’’ was the invitation of Saraki by the police for questioning over his alleged relationship with suspects arrested following the bank robbery in Offa, Kwara State.
The police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, said on Sunday June 3, 2018 in a statement that Saraki had been summoned to appear before a police team in Abuja for interrogation. Moshood said at least five of the 22 suspects arrested in connection to the April 5, 2018 attack on five banks in Offa, which also led to the killing of at least 17 people, including nine police officers, confessed their allegiance to Saraki.
Even though, Saraki was subsequently requested ‘’respectively’’ not to appear in person but to submit written reply to the charges within 48 hours, Saraki and Dogara felt the ‘’die is cast’’. ‘’It was time to come down on President Buhari with ton of bricks of charges; or at least to cast some slur on his face, ‘baban-riga’ and ‘integrity’ for him to be dusting and cleaning like us’’, which appear to be the resolve of the duo. After all, the Department of State Services (DSS) on Sunday June 3 recalled half of its operatives officially allocated to Saraki and Dogara. The security operatives attached to the two presiding officers of the National Assembly were directed to report to the DSS headquarters “with immediate effect”.
After the marathon joint executive session, Saraki, who was flanked by Dogara reeled out a 12 point resolution which he said must be complied with by the President or risk being faced with the invocation of the powers of the National Assembly. No timeline was given for the compliance with the resolution.
The resolutions read in part “The systematic harassment and humiliation by the Executive of perceived political opponents, people with contrary opinions including Legislators and Judiciary by the police and other security agencies must stop.” There must be strict adherence to the Rule of Law and protection for all citizens by the President and his appointees. ”
The President must be held accountable for the actions of his appointees and must be ready to sanction those that carry out any act which will ridicule or endanger our country and democracy.
“We reaffirm our earlier resolution of vote of no confidence on the Inspector General of Police who does nothing other than preside over the killing of innocent Nigerians and consistent framing up of perceived political opponents of the President and outright disregard for constitutional authority, both executive and legislative. “Finally, the National Assembly will not hesitate to evoke its Constitutional powers if nothing is done to address the above resolutions passed today”.
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