Senators were eager to commence impeachment proceedings, yesterday, but for the intervention of Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The senators wanted the chamber to begin the process of the president’s impeachment immediately but, reason prevailed.
They accused President Muhammadu Buhari of alleged violation of section 80 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Buhari was specifically accused of withdrawing $496.3 million from the Excess Crude Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government- Federal, State and Local Governments.
The money was used to purchase military helicopters from the United States Government.
The military helicopters are expected to be delivered in 2020.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide drew first blood when he moved the impeachment notice, through a motion. He urged the senate president to activate section 143 of the constitution.
Urhoghide described Buhari’s action as an impeachable offence and called on his colleagues to support the move.
“This matter yesterday was raised by me to say that this request that was sought by Mr President is procedurally wrong. What has been read by the Senate Leader was that this matter has been referred to the Appropriate Committee for inclusion of this amount of money that has already been spent.
“This ought to have been the first request to this Senate. We must put it on record that this is a violation of procedure as stated in the 1999 constitution.
“The objective of the expenditure is very well established but the procedure is wrong. There are serious consequences for violation of our constitution. As a consequence, the only thing we can draw from, on this, is that we call on you, Mr President, to invoke section 143 of the constitution. Because, what it means is that this matter is not to be investigated. It is clear that this offence has been committed by Mr President.
“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. I so move, Mr President.”
Chukwuka Utazi seconded the motion and added that lawmakers will be ridiculed if they refuse to defend the constitution.
On his part, senator Shehu Sani, kicked against the impeachment moves but suggested that the agreement be voided and the money returned to the confers of the Federal Government, pending when a constitutional approval will be given by the National Assembly.
Another APC senator, Abu Ibrahim from Buhari’s home state of Katsina, supported Buhari’s action.
He said the president’s action was not out of place since the decision was taken in the interest of the country.
Deputy Senate Leader Bala Ibn Na’Allah, in his intervention, called for caution.
He urged his colleagues to refer the issue to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; to advise the chamber on the next line of action.
Ruling on the motion, Saraki urged his colleagues to maintain their cool until the committee advises them on the next constitutional line of action.
The matter was subsequently referred to the David Umaru-led Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters committee.
Regardless, Saraki admitted that Buhari breached the constitution by unilaterally withdrawing the money from the treasury without legislative approval.
He said: “I think we all agree that, from what has been presented to us; definitely there was a breach of constitution. The question concerned is, what were the circumstances which surrounded the breach of the constitution? Whether those circumstances justify the breach of constitution?
“Between September 2017 and February 2018, with all due respect, there was ample time for the Executive to have carried us along on this issue. So, their arguments, for and against, I think these arguments are valid and I don’t want us to bring it down to partisanship issues. These are not partisan issues.”
Not satisfied, Urhoghide attempted to bring back the issue but Saraki ruled him out of order. He urged him to wait until the committee submits its recommendations.
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, refused to appear before the Senate, to explain the rationale behind the arrest and detention of senator Dino Melaye.
The IGP was also expected to explain how the police would tackle killings in various parts of the country.
Instead, he sent a Deputy IGP in charge of Operations, Mr. Habila Joshak, who was turned back by the Senate. Lawmakers insisted only the IGP would suffice.
Thereafter, Senate resolved and re-summoned the IGP to appear at plenary next Wednesday.
Also, the House of Representatives has deferred debate on Buhari’s letter to the House seeking approval for the $496 million spent on the Tucano Aircraft.
After several lawmakers spoke for and against a motion on the issue, Dogara said going by Order 1, Rule 2 of the House Standing Rules, as amended, the Green Chamber can regulate itself where there is no specific precedence, or provisions on a subject matter.
“As a matter of law, there are no straightforward answers to this problem presented by the letter or what it is asking us to do.
“People are watching us to see what we are about to do; whether we will stand with the truth. We will have to, therefore, refer this matter to the Committee on Rules and Business, for them to check the archives, whether there are any precedences that we can anchor this communication on. That is my ruling.”