On July 27, 2022, some members of the National Assembly across party lines, before embarking on their two months annual vacation had vowed to commence an impeachment process against President Muhammadu Buhari over his failure to curb the worsening insecurity in the country.
At the plenary that day, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Phillip Aduda, had moved a point of order seeking to discuss insecurity on the floor of the Senate but the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, ruled him out of order. Aduda, then led his colleagues to the Senate Press Centre where he told journalists that President Buhari would be shown the way out if he failed to tackle insecurity within next six weeks.
The issue of insecurity has been the crux of everyday discussion during plenary in both chambers of the National Assembly. The lawmakers had on several occasions in the past expressed fears over the worsening insecurity in the country.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, shortly after the National Assembly vacated for the holidays, summoned the security chiefs to a marathon meeting where he described the security situation as frightening.
In recent times, many Nigerians have expressed major concern over the deteriorating security and economic situation. Few weeks back, terrorists freed 69 Boko Haram commanders in Kuje correctional centre; attacked troops on the Bwari-Kubwa Road, Abuja, killing a captain, a lieutenant and six soldiers, and injured many others, attacked a checkpoint at Zuma Rock. The reoccurring attacks led the government to immediately shut down schools in the FCT.
According to Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), nine steps are required to impeach the President. They include, “The first step made it mandatory for the National Assembly (both chambers) to send a notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the President, to him. The 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 it would be presented to the Senate President. The Senate President, in the second step, must within seven days, serve the President and each member of the National Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation.
“The President of the country in the third step, 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. Step four requires that within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Senate President, each chamber of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. Such motion needs to be passed by at least two-thirds majority of all members of each chamber of the National Assembly.
“In the fifth step, if the motion fails to reach the two-thirds majority, the process immediately stops, and no further action would be taken. However, if the two-thirds 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.”
Previous Moves by Lawmakers to Impeach Buhari
The latest move is however not the first time the lawmakers tried to impeach President Buhari. In 2018, Senators in the 8th Assembly were divided along political lines following a motion for the President’s impeachment. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Mathew Uroghide, moved the motion for the impeachment of Buhari over his approval and withdrawal of $496 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) without the lawmakers’ consent.
Buhari, had in a letter to the Senators explained that he gave an anticipatory approval to purchase of Super Tocano aircraft from the U.S government because of time constraint and a hope that the lawmakers will raise no objection.
But, Uroghide had stood to condemn the act of the President. Seconding the motion, Senator ChukwukaUtazi, (Enugu-PDP) played down the justification that the President gave that he is only asking that the money should be considered as supplementary budget as the process of approving the main budget is still ongoing. He opined that President Buhari should be punished for the ‘impeachable offence’ he committed.
But some APC senators accused the opposition Senators of conspiring to impeach Buhari.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ibn Na’ Allah, pleaded with the lawmakers to exercise caution in making the next move. He proposed that the issue be referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters to advise on the best approach.
In December 2020, leader of the PDP caucus in the 9th Assembly, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, reacting to the killing of 43 rice farmers in Zambarmari area of Borno State, called on Nigerians to compel their representatives in the National Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against the President.
However, the House leadership in a statement by Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, dismissed the call as an opinion of a member of the opposition.
Kalu, in the statement titled ‘Re: Nigeria saddled with the circus…Hon Kingsley Chinda and his lone voyage of impeachment call,’ said the opinion “does not represent the weakest opinion of the minority caucus of the 9th House”.
Divergent Views Trail the Latest Move
As Nigerians await the lawmakers next move when the ultimatum expires on September 20, 2022, many are of the view that the exercise was already belated because of the time frame available to actualise the constitutional procedure.
Nigerians have also asserted that the general election slated for February next year would have been concluded and a new president would have been elected before the National Assembly would conclude the impeachment process. As the expiration of the ultimatum draws nearer lawmakers in both chambers in separate interviews with newsmen have expressed divergent views on the matter, leading to the belief that the impeachment won’t be carried out once they resume plenary.
The Senator representing Bauchi North Senatorial District, AdamuBulkachuwa, in an interview revealed that majority of members of the Senate are in support of the move to impeach the President. Bulkachuwa, who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, said almost all members of the Senate backed the move when the lawmakers went in an executive session at the plenary July 27.
A Peoples Democratic Party Senator representing Osun East senatorial district, Francis Fadahunsi, on his part, said it was not true that the opposition were retreating on their move to impeach the President.
When asked if they are backtracking on their resolve, He said, “Who said so? Who are the opposition (lawmakers) that met? You did an interview with Senator GershomBassey who said that we meant what we said. Those people saying such are not feeling fine. Even northern senators are in support of the impeachment; you heard Senator Clifford (Ordia) from Edo, Senator Bulkachuwa (Mohammed) and the rest. So, who are those that told them so?’’
He hinted that Senators would remove the Senate President from office in advancement of the moves against Buhari.
According to him: “Bulkachuwa had earlier moved the motion but the Senate President shot him down because we were not around. Very soon, we will push him out of the place instead of dying one after the other and keeping silent.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Senator representing Benue North West Senatorial District, OrkerJev, also dismissed the insinuation that the opposition Senators had stepped down the impeachment move.
The Deputy Minority Whip, Senator DanjumaLa’ah, also said the opposition Senators had yet to jettison the impeachment threat.
Also, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, debunked the report that the impeachment threat had died.
But, the House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu’s (APC, Abia) view on the matter differed from that of his colleagues.
Kalu who stressed the constitutional procedures required to impeach a President said, “When the people called for impeachment, which they said would start in two months’ time, the question should be, We are in August. How many months more does this particular administration have before winding down? We are talking about nine months, if you calculate from September to May. You said you were giving Mr. President six weeks to allow Mr. President to fix things, and if not, you would call for impeachment. If you are going to take two months out of the nine months, what is left is seven months.
“You need about one-third of the National Assembly members to agree that a notice should be presented to the President of the Senate alleging misconduct by Mr. President. It will take a lot of time to get one-third of the National Assembly members, especially considering this season of elections and campaigns. We are talking about raising the two-thirds in a period when people are busy with electioneering, and I don’t see that happening in one month or two months. So, the three months that are left will take us to February of next year when we have the general elections.”
Also, some PDP lawmakers in the House have said they were uninterested in the impeachment threats against the President because they don’t have enough time to do so.
Aside the timing, they also said the presiding officers of both chambers of the National Assembly, are Buhari’s henchmen who would strongly frustrate the plan to remove him.
One of the lawmakers who pleaded anonymity said “We called on members of NASS to commence impeachment of Mr. President two years ago and we also urged Nigerians to call on their Representatives to commence impeachment. We did so because we identified the incompetence of the present administration and its irresponsive posture to the yearnings of the people and its glaring inability to protect the lives of Nigerians which is a fundamental constitutional breach.
“Perhaps members were then either too busy or just laid back to appreciate what we were saying. It was branded a personal call. Both Nigerians and parliamentarians, including the Press, played it down. The present call for impeachment only vindicates us and very sincerely is coming late in the day and not much benefit will come to the masses. I respect the parliament for even rising up at all but I will not be surprised to hear that the call has been dropped.
He stated further, “I pray that Nigerian Lives matter to all of us in various public offices. This insecurity is like rainfall, it doesn’t discriminate on grounds of political leaning, tribe or religion. It falls on all roofs. We cannot tell who will be a victim. Extreme measure is required because its an extreme situation that we find ourselves now.”
Another lawmaker who also spoke anonymously said, “I am not aware. I was never in support of the impeachment considering the time it will require to see the process through, more so that the presiding officers in both chambers are the president’s yes men.”
While the presidency in reaction to the threat by the lawmakers has described it as a bluff and a waste of the country’s time, Nigerians will know if the federal lawmakers will still commence the impeachment process when they resume the last leg of their legislative activities on September 20, 2022.