BusinessDay

Impeachment threat rattles Buhari

…But cumbersome process stand in the way of agitators

Despite the presidency’s description of the impeachment threats against President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Assembly as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘babyish’, it has emerged that the retired Army General is rattled by the move.

Sequel to the threats by opposition members of the National Assembly to impeach President Buhari over the worsening insecurity in the country, Garba Shehu, his senior special assistant on media dismissed their move as nothing to worry about.

He said: “The performative and babyish antics of those senators staging a walkout notwithstanding, Senate President Ahmad Lawan’s refusal to entertain the ridiculous motion to impeach our president was quite appropriate and correct.

“Rather than making a mockery out of voters by trying to imitate what they see in America, the opposition would be well advised that their time would be better spent tackling the pressing issues Nigerians face, such as the current global cost of living crisis.”

But sources close to the President said he has not taken the impeachment attempts for granted, though not in a manner to panic for public notice.

According to the sources, the threat of impeachment by the National Assembly was one of the reasons while President Buhari summoned a National Security Council meeting to marshal out immediate plan to address insecurity.

“President Muhammadu Buhari is actually worried by the threat of the National Assembly to impeach him though you don’t expect him to go out there panicking but to rather take steps to ensure things are brought under control before the six weeks ultimatum given by the opposition lawmakers.

“One of the steps was the National Security Council meeting held last week. The purpose was to rejig the security strategies to tackle the challenges and make sure the whole situation is drastically reduced even before the six weeks.

“Remember that the lawmakers said is when the problem is not addressed in next six weeks that they will begin impeachment proceedings against the president and everything is done to significantly improve on the security situation,” the sources said.

It all began last week Wednesday when Senators from opposition political parties staged a walkout from plenary when Ahmad Lawan, the president of the Senate turned down a motion to mandate Buhari to improve the security situation in six weeks or be impeached.

The aggrieved lawmakers later told journalists that they had agreed with their colleagues from the majority caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a closed-door session, that the president would be given the six weeks ultimatum.

“At the closed session, we agreed to give him (Buhari) an ultimatum of six weeks after which we will impeach him. But the Senate President blocked us.

“Nowhere is safe in Nigeria, even Abuja. Urgent steps need to be taken and we left the chamber because we’ve given the President six weeks to resolve the issue or we impeach him.

“We’ve given all the appropriations, resolutions and the support he needs. Our next line of action is to impeach him,” Philip Aduda, the senate minority leader said behalf of other opposition senators.

Equally, the House of Representatives minority caucus also backed their counterparts in the senate on the move to impeach President Buhari over sickening insecurity and economic doldrums.

Ndudi Elumelu, the House minority leader, said they were joining their Senate counterparts in the move to impeach the President if he failed to tackle the heightened insecurity.

Elumelu said: “They have given six to eight weeks for Mr. President to address the insecurity that is, of course, affecting this nation, and I want to also join on behalf of my colleagues to also say that upon the expiration, we will proffer ways of ensuring that we will gather all the signatures.

“Let me make it clear, those who are thinking that it is only the issue of PDP or the minority caucus, no. Many of our colleagues under the bipartisanship are affected. Many of them are affected. So, they may not be speaking but we may be speaking for them.

“It is now N710 to a dollar as at yesterday and if we are not careful, it may rise to N1000 and beyond. And today, our reserve is almost gone. We do not have any reserve any more. The reserve is gone and these were the things that took PDP led government time to build.”

Since, then there have been divergent views; support and opposition to impeachment threat against President Buhari with permutations that the leadership of the APC-controlled National Assembly under Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila will not allow the impeachment materialize.

Whichever way the pendulum swings, the process of impeaching a president and vice president is cumbersome that many believe if the National Assembly embarked on the venture by the time it resumed plenary from September 20, the process may not be completed before the 2023 general election.

Recall that the National Assembly, on many occasions, had discussed the seriousness of the insecurity situation in the country.

They had also made suggestions to summon the President, but that has not happened, because a greater number of the legislature, because they are of the same party, religion or ethnic leaning with the President, shut down the plan.

Before now also, some members of the National Assembly had called for the impeachment of the president on ground of incompetence, but that was shut down.

Read also: Major political news last week

In April last year, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC-Kogi) wept on the floor of the Senate while speaking on the worsening security situation in the country, and urged his colleagues to take a drastic action by calling the President’s attention to a menace that he noted was threatening the lives of every citizen.

But he was not taken seriously by fellow party members. Between then and now, the situation has gone out of hand.

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, had last Wednesday acknowledged that the level of insecurity in the country is “frightening.”

He spoke during a meeting between the leadership of the Senate and Security Chiefs. He said that despite the huge investments in security, the worsening situation was affecting agriculture, direct foreign investments and crude oil production.

“The security of any country cannot be 100 percent satisfactory, but of course, there is a level at which no country can be comfortable with insecurity,” Lawan said.

According to him, “Ours has lingered. We had hoped that by this time, the security situation would have been far better and Nigeria would have made more progress not only in the area of security but also in the area of the economy which is tied to the security situation.”

Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, while backing the move to impeach President Buhari, while speaking in Abeokuta, Ogun State, last Tuesday, said: “Democracy indicates a contract, that is why the candidate puts on a manifesto. On the basis of that manifesto, the candidate is either accepted or repeated.”

According to him, “The reason we will go by some legislators to impeach the President, who is the head of government. In fact, one cleric has gone even further. He believes that the impeachment should take place not in the legislative house but in the Bush with the kidnappers and he appealed to the kidnappers to quicken the process by impacting the President and take him away and some of his aides and one or two governors.”

How to impeach President in Nigeria

Section 143 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) provides the procedure for the removal of the president and vice-president from office which could be a long process of about months to complete.

143. (1) The President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(2) Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly:-

(a) is presented to the President of the Senate;

(b) 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, the President of the Senate shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice cause a copy thereof to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the National Assembly, and shall also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office to be served on each member of the National Assembly.

(3) Within fourteen days of the presentation of the notice to the President of the Senate (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice) each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.

(4) A motion of the National Assembly that the allegation be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed, unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.

(5) Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provisions, the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall at the request of the President of the Senate appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provide in this section.

(6) The holder of an office whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person and be represented before the Panel by legal practitioners of his own choice.

(7) A Panel appointed under this section shall –

(a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the National Assembly; and

(b) within three months of its appointment report its findings to each House of the National Assembly.

(8) Where the Panel reports to each House of the National Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.

(9) Where the report of the Panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office has been proved, then within fourteen days of the receipt of the report at the House the National Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.

(10) No proceedings or determination of the Panel or of the National Assembly or any matter relating thereto shall be entertained or questioned in any court.

(11) In this section –
“gross misconduct” means a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.