Can federal lawmakers make good their threat to sack Buhari? | Dailytrust

Can federal lawmakers make good their threat to sack Buhari?

Senators, on Wednesday, threatened to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari if Nigeria’s worsening security situation was not improved within six weeks. The impeachment threat comes...

National Assembly
National Assembly

Senators, on Wednesday, threatened to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari if Nigeria’s worsening security situation was not improved within six weeks.

The impeachment threat comes amid heightened tension in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over likely terrorist attacks.

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Since the July 5 invasion of the Kuje Correctional facility in the FCT by terrorists, during which hundreds of inmates, including high-profile criminals were freed, suburbs surrounding the nation’s seat of power has been witnessing serious security breaches. 

Last Sunday, army officers attached to the Presidential Guards Brigade were killed in an ambush laid by terrorists in Bwari area of the FCT. 

Twenty-four hours after the incident, the management of the Federal Government College Kwali, also in the FCT, asked parents to evacuate their children from the school following an attack by bandits in a neighbouring community. Kwali had suffered bandits’ attacks at least three times last week. 

On Thursday night, some soldiers were reportedly killed when Boko Haram terrorists raided a military checkpoint around Zuma rock in Niger State, close to the FCT. 

The FCTA authorities and the Ministry of Education also ordered the shutdown of all schools in the nation’s capital.

Babagana Monguno, the National Security Adviser, told journalists after a security meeting on Thursday that the country was in a “very difficult situation”.

The senators had, during a two-hour executive session on Wednesday, agreed to a six-week ultimatum on the president to address the current spate of insecurity or get impeached. 

However, members of the Red Chamber from opposition parties, led by the Minority Leader, Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT) stormed out of plenary chanting “Buhari must go” when the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, blocked the move to debate the issue. 

Aduda, while briefing reporters after the walkout, said it was a collective decision to give the president the six-week ultimatum to act or get an impeachment notice. 

“This was our agreement at the executive session but when we came out, the Senate President refused to inform the public of our resolution. 

“Since that didn’t happen, we have come here in protest to let Nigerians know that we are with them, that we are worried,” he said. 

On Thursday, the impeachment plot thickened when PDP members in the House of Representatives aligned with their colleagues in the Senate.

Briefing reporters after a meeting of the PDP caucus in the National Assembly, which held behind closed doors, House Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu said if there was no significant improvement in the security situation at the expiration of six weeks, they would move to gather signatures for Buhari’s impeachment. 

“I want to, on behalf of my colleagues, also say that upon the expiration, we will proffer ways of ensuring that we gather all the signatures,” he said. 

Six-week ultimatum: Real or empty threat?

Responding to the lawmakers’ impeachment threat, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said the opposition senators were “divided” and “confused” and urged them to spend their time and energy on tackling the pressing issues Nigerians face. 

Elumelu fired back at the presidential spokesman, saying when the impeachment process starts, Garba Shehu “will find out that it’s not a laughable action. It’s real and we will not stand to allow this nation collapse.”

While the country’s armed forces, police, DSS and others continue to grapple with insecurity, with the hope that the situation will improve, Nigerians are watching keenly whether or not the federal legislators will make good their threat to sack Buhari after the expiration of six weeks, bearing in mind the stringent process for impeaching a president as contained in section 143 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

“We have given our position and waiting to see what he (the president) is going to do. When the time comes, we will come back to the floor and do the needful. The constitution is very clear about impeachment. We know what to do,” said Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA, Abia). 

The former Minority Leader said the lawmakers were worried because the country had reached the point where things, especially serious security breaches, happened and no one is punished. 

“Since nobody pays the price for failure, everyone does what he feels and gives the impression of some kind of complicity,” he added. 

Also, Senator Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River) said though they were serious about the impeach threat, the essence of their action was for President Buhari to take decisive action against insecurity. 

He said: “The point of our action is not impeachment; it is to ensure safety and security in the country. That is why we have given a six-week threshold within which we want the executive, particularly the president, to do something about insecurity.

“It appears the focus has been on part two, which is the impeachment notice. Yes, we are serious about that. But we will only get there when part one fails, which is lack of expected action against insecurity. But I hope we won’t get to part two. 

“Our best hope is that the president will respond to what we are saying. And at the end of the six weeks, the security situation, to a large extent, would have been improved. 

“But if insecurity continues without the kind of response we expect after the ultimatum, then we move to part two, which is the impeachment notice.”

Impeachment move tedious, unrealistic – Lawyers

Legal practitioners said the threat by lawmakers to sack Buhari from office was justified. 

They noted that the numerous challenges, including insecurity and ailing economy, facing the country pointed to the leadership failure on the part of the president. 

They, however, said the impeachment move was unrealistic owing to the stringent constitutional provisions and the timeframe required to complete the process vis-a-vis the time the Buhari’s presidency would elapse. 

Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said the impeachment move became necessary as the citizens are in desperate time that requires greater urgency by the president.

He, however, said impeachment is not something done and gotten over in a jiffy due to the strict constitutional procedures. 

“The lawmakers may not get the majority of votes needed,” he said.

“Whatever it is, let the president know that Nigerians are not happy with what is happening and he should have greater efforts to curb the situation so we will be better for it,” he added. 

Similarly, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq said the undeniable facts of the insecurity, inflation, and other ills bedevilling the country showed the failure of leadership by the president and the parliament. 

He said the threat by the lawmakers to take steps for the removal of the president from office was justified “under sections 12(2)(b), and 143 of the Nigerian Constitution having allegedly failed in his primary responsibility of security and welfare of Nigerians as mandated on him by section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution.”

He, however, noted that there was no time to actualise the move as the preparations for the 2023 general elections have begun.

“Therefore, by implications, the removal procedures might, in my view, having regards to the challenges itemised above, be unrealistic and a waste of time and resources, except to expect the president of the federation to be prevailed upon to voluntarily resign from office,” he added.


Impeachment process

Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) details the process for the removal of a president from office as follows: 

1.  A notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the President, signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) is presented to the Senate President. 

2.  The Senate President must, within 7 days, serve the President and each member of the National Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation. 

3.  The President has a right of reply, and any statement in reply to the allegation must be served on each member of the National Assembly. 

4. Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Senate President, each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. This motion needs to be passed by at least a two-thirds majority of all members of each House.  

5.  Within seven days of the passing of the motion, the Senate President will 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. The members of the panel cannot be members of any public service, legislative house or political party. 

6.  During the proceedings of the panel, the president shall have a right to defend himself, and shall also have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/her choice. 

7.   The panel is to report its findings within three months of being appointed to each House of the National Assembly. 

8.  Where the panel reports that the allegation has not been proven, there will be no further action. However, if the report is that the allegation against the president has been proven, then the National Assembly will consider the report, and a resolution for the adoption of the report shall be moved. 

9.  For the resolution to be adopted, it must be supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House. Once adopted the president shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report. 

10.   The president cannot challenge the decision of the panel or the National Assembly in any court. 

11.   The office of the President will pass to the incumbent Vice-President, and he will take the oath of office. 

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