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Senate committee on Judiciary to decide Buhari’s fate over withdrawal from ECA
The senate committee on judiciary and legal matters will decide whether the higher legislative chamber should go ahead with the impeachment process of President Muhammadu Buhari for withdrawing $496 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) without seeking the approval of the legislative arm of government as stipulated by the constitution.
In a motion by Matthew Uroghide, calling for section 143 of the constitution to be invoked against Buhari.
Uroghide said that Buhari’s action in approving withrawal of money from the ECA without legislative approval, is a clear “violation of Section 80 subsection 1, 2, 3, 4” of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“The procedure of the expenditure is wrong. There ought to be an appropriation before such an expenditure. I hereby request that the Senate President should invoke Section 143 of the Constitution,” he said.
Section 143 of the constitution reads thus:
“The President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly is presented to the President of the Senate; 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.”
Uroghide’s motion was seconded by Chukwu Utazi, PDP Enugu State, who agreed that Buhari’s action amounts to an impeachable offence, adding that it was not the first time the executive is taking important policy decisions without consulting the legislature.
“We are still on the appropriation bill, we have not finished it. Service chiefs were appointed without the approval of the Senate,” Utazi said.
”This Tucano helicopters are to be brought in 2020, why include it now in appropriation. This is an impeachable offense.”
Also contributing to the debate, Shehu Sani, an APC senator from Kaduna State, said though the presidency was right that the level of insecurity in the country at present is quite high, it was not enough reason to breach the constitution.
“We are not ignorant of the security challenges that is going on in the country and how it affects the stability of our country, Sani said.
“I appreciate the efforts of the federal government to bring an end to the killings in Nigeria, but this is no reason to breach the Constitution.
“This is a gross violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is very clear to us that we are failing as a government and as a nation. We should be calling for refund and exercise due process.”
However, Bala Na’Allah, Deputy Majority Leader, called for caution, suggesting the the matter be forwarded to the Senate committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters, for more informed decision.
In his remarks, Bukola Saraki, Senate President, pointed out that though it was clear that there has been a breach of the constitution, it would be best if the matter was tackled more tactfully, especially as the funds in question had already been spent.
“All of us agree that there is definitely security concerns in our country. At the same time, we all agree that from what has been presented to us definitely there is a breach of constitution,” Saraki said.
“The question is, what are the circumstances surrounding the breach of Constitution and whether those circumstances justify the breach of Constitution.
Saraki recalled that when Donald Trump, the US President, granted approval for the tucano jets to be sold to Nigeria in August 2017, some members of the US congress paid a visit to the National Assembly to ascertain whether the lawmakers were aware of the development.
“I led the team with members of the House of Representatives and members here in the Senate and we met with the members of Congress on this issue,” he said.
“Between September and February, with all due respect, there was ample time for the Executive to have carried us along on this issue.
“If you will all agree, we should refer the matter to the Judiciary Committee and give them a short period of time. By Wednesday next week they should present their report to us.”