The House of Representatives was in a rowdy session yesterday following calls by some lawmakers for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari over the unauthorised withdrawal and spending of $496,374,470.00 million on war planes.
The House was sharply divided over the decision by Buhari to expend the unbudgeted $496,374,470.00 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) on the procurement of 12 super Tucano aircraft from the United States of America (USA).
The president, in a correspondence to the lower chamber, dated April 13, 2018 and titled “Supplementary input to the 2018 Appropriation Bill: Purchase of Supper Tucano Aircraft from the United States Government”, argued that the approval for the procurement was taken by the 36 states governors and the National Economic Council (NEC) on December 14, 2017.
Trouble started immediately after the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, read out the president’s communication on the money approximately put at about N151,394,421,355.00.
Kingsley Chinda (Rivers-PDP), while raising a point of order, said President Buhari’s action was tantamount to anticipatory approval since the National Assembly was yet to appropriate such money in the 2018 budget.
Chinda called for the impeachment of Buhari over the breach, maintaining that the House must not sit down and allow the president usurp the powers of the lawmakers as the watchdog over the purse of the country.
Amidst deafening chants of “yes, no, yes, no” by antagonists and protagonists of the point of order, Chinda, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, argued that such infraction could only be tolerated in an autocratic government.
Emmanuel Orkev-Jev (Benue-APC) called for caution, arguing it was needless “putting the cart before the horse” on the issue since it had not been slated for deliberations in line with the House Standing Rules.
An attempt by Dogara to corroborate Orkev-Jev’s position was met with stiff resistance, with a screaming of “no, no no” by a section of the House with mainly Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members.
Ali Madaki (Kano-APC) drew the attention of the House to section 11 and 13 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which prescribes that no rule shall supersede constitutional provision.
Sunday Karibi (Kogi-PDP), who spoke in support of Madaki, insisted on punitive measures against President Buhari over the purchase of the warplanes without appropriation by the National Assembly.
Both the House Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Onyema and Tajudeen Yusuf (Kogi-PDP) who spoke in the same vein urged their colleagues in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) not to take partisan position over a matter that was a clear impeachable offence.
Yusuf particularly wondered why the president gave anticipatory approval for the procurement of the warplanes that would be supplied in 2020, even when he knew that the 2018 budget is yet to be passed into law.
“We should jettison the idea of being partisan in all situations. This is about the Nigerian people. This is a mere communication that the money has been spent in anticipation of approval. This is not a budget bill. The issue of procedure does not arise. This is a clear impeachable offence,” he argued.
Sergious Ose Ogun (Edo:-PDP) also pushed for the impeachment of Buhari since anticipatory approval was used as a basis for the impeachment of the late former Senate President, Chuka Okadigbo.
A renewed effort by Dogara to intimate the House that the president wanted the expenditure incurred to be included in the 2018 budget was fiercely resisted by those opposed to the request.
Samson Okwu (Benue-PDP) said the issue remained a serious one, adding the President Buhari should be told in clear terms to return the money to the federation account.
Shehu Nicholas Garba (Kaduna-PDP) said beyond the issue of the anticipatory approval, there was the need for drastic action against the president for allegedly spending over N4 billion daily without approval by the National Assembly to subsidise the price of fuel.
But Kayode Oladele (Ogun- APC), Munir Agundi (Kano -APC) and Yakubu Balogun (Lagos-APC) argued that the anticipatory approval was not unlawful since it was necessitated by the exigency to tackle the security challenges in the country.
Dogara, who sought the views of his deputy, Sulaimon Yussuff Lasun and Orkev-Jev, eventually doused the tension when he ruled that the standard procedure on the issue remained to slate it for debate at an appropriate date on the floor of the House.
The lawmakers also adopted a motion sponsored by the Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguea, to set up an ad hoc committee to probe into the remote and immediate causes of the invasion of the Senate chamber by unknown persons last week.
Dogara, who condemned the attack warned that acts that could threaten the country’s democracy would be resisted by Nigerians.