Senators and members of the house of representatives have started collecting signatures for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari, sources revealed on Thursday.
The lawmakers, who are not happy with the decision of the president to approve $496 million for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the US without their backing, had given the impression that the matter was being resolved.
The issue of impeachment first arose at the house of reps on Wednesday. While deliberating on a letter Buhari wrote to the national assembly, saying he had anticipated that the lawmakers would approve the withdrawal, Kingsley Chinda from Rivers state, asked his colleagues to commence impeachment proceedings against Buhari.
The president had said he took the action because the US gave Nigeria a deadline for payment. He also sought to include the procurement of the aircraft in the 2018 budget.
But citing sections 80 and 81 of 1999 constitution, Chinda said the Nigerian law does not recognise anticipatory approval.
“There is nowhere in our law that talked about anticipatory approval. We cannot sit down and allow this to take place. It is an impeachable offence. There is no infraction that is worse than this. Let us not continue to sleep. I propose that we commence the impeachment of Mr President,” he had said.
However, on Thursday, some members of the lower legislative chamber said they had decided that rather than initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, the committee on rules and business should look for a way to resolve the matter.
But a legislative source said that the lawmakers were only being diplomatic.
“As I speak to you, signatures for the impeachment of Mr President are being collected in both chambers of the national assembly,” the source said.
“The lawmakers are very angry and are ready to nail this act once and for all. Don’t forget that this is not the first time that the president would disregard the legislature in taking key decisions… the matter has been referred to the committees (in both chambers) and they will advise them on the way forward as regards the anticipatory approval. But based on the illegality of Mr President’s action, they have started gathering signatures for his impeachment in both chambers.
“Buhari had since September 2017 to consult with the leadership of the national assembly leadership over this issue but he did not do so. Last year, a congress delegation met with the leadership of the national assembly based on Trump’s request to sell the aircraft to Nigeria but our president decided to do things his own way.”
The source said while Chinda is among those coordinating the collection of signatures in the lower legislative chamber, some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators are behind it at the senate.
There was a fierce argument between the PDP lawmakers and their All Progressives Congress (APC) colleagues at the senate on Thursday.
Matthew Urhoghide, a PDP senator from Edo state, and Chukwuka Utazi, a PDP lawmaker Enugu state, were among the opposition lawmakers who pushed for the ousting of Buhari, while some of their colleagues on the other side disagreed.
“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 had said.
But Abu Ibrahim, an APC senator from Katsina state, disagreed, describing the impeachment plot as a conspiracy from PDP.
Ibrahim defended Buhari, saying the president approved for the withdrawal of the money “based on national interest”.
“This is the first time that money drawn from excess crude account is being brought to the national assembly (for approval). Since they began to operate this account, I have never seen any expenditure that was brought here for approval,” the lawmaker said.
“This is a PDP conspiracy. I will like the PDP to tell us which of their governors have taken the money released from excess crude oil account to the state assembly for approval. If this is a PDP conspiracy to tarnish the image of Muhammadu Buhari, they will not be able to do it because we are coming out with figures.”
Section 143 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) deals with the removal of the president and vice-president from office. It is a very long process, taking at least three months to complete.
Yusuf Olaniyonu, spokesman of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Turaki Hassan, spokesman of Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house of representatives, could not be reached for comments when this report was filed. None of them responded to calls or replied the text messages sent.