Rising above partisan politics or personal relationships, over 80 senators across political parties and a majority of House of Representatives members, yesterday, agreed to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari, if the growing insecurity across the nation persisted beyond six weeks, being the ultimatum handed the government before the legislature shut down till September 20.
The decision was taken after their respective closed-sessions before the commencement of plenary, presided over by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who also charged the security agencies to do more in order to stop the terrorists and the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase
But the presidency last night reacted to the reported move by the Senate to commence impeachment moves against President Buhari, and advised the senators to stop playing to the gallery like their counterparts in the United States, otherwise, staging a walkout was performative and babyish.
At the same time, the federal government, has said it was currently working round the clock to bring the country’s security situation under control.
The Senators, at the executive session, agreed to give Buhari a six-week ultimatum to address the issue or risk impeachment, and also maintained that all resolutions passed earlier on how to improve the security situation in Nigeria must be implemented immediately by the Buhari-led administration.
The senators, who then agreed at the session that the Senate President should allow members to debate the issue at plenary, however, threatened to impeach Lawan if he failed to cooperate with them.
THISDAY gathered that more than two-thirds of the senators, across the parties at their closed-door session, agreed to impeach Buhari, but the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, was not comfortable, because he didn’t want the presidency to misread it as his own way of getting back at them after he failed to clinch the presidential ticket of the party or even secured his ticket to return to the senate.
Besides, about seven other senators, led by Opeyemi Bamidele from Ekiti State and Gabriel Suswam from Benue, were also said to have shared Lawan’s sentiment, given the present circumstance.
That, nonetheless, the senators, on the sidelines, were not clear with the mode the impeachment should take, knowing that the south/north dichotomy was still a critical factor in the balance of power in the country.
They, therefore, resolved that the matter would be part of the issues to be considered after the six weeks ultimatum, to know whether they would impeach either Buhari alone or send him away with his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Trouble, however, started at plenary proper, when the order paper was not altered to accommodate the public debate on the issue at plenary.
Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda (FCT), protested the worsening security situation and demanded an open debate as agreed upon at the closed session.
Rising under a point of order not cited, he requested the chamber to give a six-week ultimatum to President Buhari to address the issue of insecurity or face impeachment.
“Mr. President, you may wish to recall that during the closed session, we discussed the issues as they relate to security in the country and all the issues around it.
“[And] we had also discussed that we are going to come back to plenary to discuss the efforts that have been made so far on the issue of security in the country, after which we give an ultimatum to the President that he resolves this issue, otherwise, we give an impeachment notice,” he said.
Delivering a ruling on Aduda’s point of order, Lawan faulted the lawmaker for failing to put forward his request in accordance with the upper chamber’s rules, which regulate its proceedings.
According to him, “Minority leader, when you’re going to come under a point of order, first, you’re supposed to cite the order. Secondly, you’re supposed to discuss with me what you’re going to raise on the floor. You didn’t. Thirdly, we have already passed that stage. So, at this moment, I really don’t know what the point of order is, as such it falls flat on its face.”
Lawan, thereafter, instructed the leader of the Senate to proceed with items on the order paper.
Although in closing his remarks, Lawan told security agencies in the country to be alert and do more to stop the heightening spate insecurity across states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) perpetrated by terrorists.
Charging political leaders to be alive to their responsibility of ensuring the protection of lives of citizens, Lawan, while addressing lawmakers shortly before the upper chamber adjourned till September 20, for its annual recess, bemoaned the incessant killing and maiming of Nigerians by terrorists.
He assured that the National Assembly would provide the needed support to the military to ensure the restoration of security to affected parts of the country.
“I am particularly concerned like all of us here, through our various interactions, including a very important closed session we had today. We (Federal Government) have to be alert and alive to our responsibility, particularly, to secure and protect the lives of our citizen.
“The security situation has been a very difficult and challenging one, but, recently, there has been an increase of attacks, killings and maiming of our citizens. As a part of this administration, we will always provide the kind of support that our military and other security agencies require.
“We have done that before through appropriation and approval of supplementary budget of 2022, where over N900 billion was given as additional funding to our security agencies. We know that it may not be enough, but that is significant, and we expect our security agencies to do far better than they are doing at the moment. As political leaders, we must have it in mind that we are responsible to the citizens.”
But the minority leader, who would not take any of that, angrily led almost half of the senators in the chambers across all political parties to stage a walkout, chanting: “Buhari Must Go” “Lawan Must Go”, as they filed out from the red chamber.
The aggrieved senators including all the PDP members, some of their APC colleagues and others from All Progressives Grand Alliance, New Nigerian People’s Party, the Labour Party and Young Peoples Party, later converged at the Senate Press Corps to address journalists.
Aduda, who spoke on their behalf, lamented that Lawan stopped the Senate from taking a definite position on the embarrassing security challenges in the country at plenary.
He said, “We went into a closed-door session. Various security issues were discussed at the closed-door session. We also took into cognizance that the Senate, at various fora, at various times and various meetings, had recommended to the government, steps to be taken to curb this issue of insecurity but we have realised that even Abuja is no more safe.
“So, at the closed-session, we agreed that we will give the president an ultimatum and if he did not comply, we will move to give 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. We staged a walkout from the chambers to register that the security in Nigeria is out of hand and urgent steps need to be taken so that the issues are addressed immediately.
“We have come here to say that we have passed so many resolutions on security, we have given all the support and all the enabling appropriation that they need,” Aduda added.
One of the APC members sighted among the protesting senators was, Adamu Bulkachuwa (Bauchi North). Also present were Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA Abia South), Ibrahim Shekarau (NNPP Kano Central), and Francis Onyewuchi ( Labour Party, Imo East ).
Impeachment Threat a Collective Decision, Say APC Senators
Meanwhile, the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Smart Adeyemi, confirmed to journalists on Wednesday that the decision to serve Buhari an impeachment notice was a collective position of all the senators at the executive session before the plenary.
“I think it is wrong to say opposition. It was a collective decision of the senate, to give ultimatum, the only difference from what the opposition are eventually saying is a matter of semantics.
“We said that we are giving the president six weeks, they said they are serving impeachment notice immediately. We all agreed that we will move after six weeks.
“The opposition said we must give notice but we say it has to be six weeks ultimatum, they said after six weeks what happens? We said they should wait till after six weeks first. I don’t see any difference,” he said.
Also speaking with journalists, Abaribe confirmed that it was a collective decision taken at closed session, saying, “We all agreed that the impeachment notice should be served on President Muhammadu Buhari if he could not tackle insecurity within the six weeks. It is not an opposition parties decision.”
When contacted, Senate Spokesperson, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said he was not part of the closed session, but claimed he was concerned about the insecurity situation in the country.
“There should be an executive-legislative strategy to tackle the situation. It is becoming worrisome and we cannot continue like this,” he said.
How Wase Blocked Elumelu from Pushing Impeachment in House
Interesting, similar drama played out in the House of Representatives, whose members across political parties, had equally agreed at their closed-door session to concur with their senate counterparts, but was bungled by the Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, who blocked the move.
According to a ranking member of the minority caucus, the whole plan was initially messed up by Senator Aduda, who did not stick to plan as agreed to by all the federal lawmakers and across parties.
The source hinted that, the decision was meant to be taken together in nation’s interest before the senators made the move first in a disruptive manner.
However, in the house, the decision, as it was in the senate, was also unanimous as nearly everyone supported the idea of impeaching Buhari.
But when they got to plenary and the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, signaled for recognition, Wase, who presided since Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, was away, allegedly switched off Elumelu’s mic, and thus prevented him from formally moving the motion on the floor of the House.
This, development, was believed to have angered other members of the House, who have resolved to meet again today, being a decision of the caucuses of both legislative houses, on how to further discussions on the impeachment of the president.
Presidency to Lawmakers: Your Action is Babyish
The presidency, yesterday, reacted to planned impeachment of President Buhari by the Senate, saying the Senators should stop playing to gallery like their counterparts in the United States, because their decision to stage a walkout was babyish.
Rather, it advised the senators to collaborate with government in a bid to solve the myriad of problems facing the nation, including current global cost of living crisis.
Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a release stated: “The performative and babyish antics of those senators staging a walk out notwithstanding, Senate President Ahmad Lawan’s refusal on Wednesday 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. Their continued failure to do so goes some way to explaining why they remain in opposition.
“In contrast, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, is committed to finding lasting solutions to the emerging security threats, including those left behind by the PDP in the South-south, the Northeast and throughout the federation. In the last 24 hours, two more Chibok girls were freed, in addition to the three brought home last week.
“These kinds of headline grabbing stunts for which the opposition is now well-known serve no one, least of all their constituents. We would respectfully remind them that it is those same constituents that they were elected to serve, and are paid to do so with public money.
“We would welcome their collaboration in our efforts to solve the problems Nigerians face on a daily basis. No one is asking them to waste their time attempting to impeach a democratically elected president at the end of his second term – certainly not their constituents.
“They should ask themselves: do they want to be in government or do they want to be in the headlines? If they want to be in government they should start acting like it and stop undermining Nigerian voters”.
FG: We’re Working to Bring Security Situation Under Control
However, making a case for the president, the federal government, yesterday, reacted to threats of impeachment by the Senate and House of Representatives, saying government was currently working around the clock to bring the country’s security situation under control.
Briefing newsmen after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the president at the State House, Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, lauded the Senators for their patriotism and concerns, saying steps were being taken to address the security challenges.
According to him, “Resolution passed by Senators, as rightly said, it was passed when we were deliberating, but we thank them for their patriotism and their concern, but we are working round the clock, 24 hours, to ensure that the situation is brought under control.
“I want to assure you that the president is aware of all these and as a matter of fact, I think tomorrow there’s going to be another Security Council meeting. So, it’s not a matter the president is taking lightly and like I’ll always say, some of the measures we’re going to take are not measure that you can discuss openly here, but we’re as concerned as you are, we’re not going to abandon our responsibility.”
On the reported threat by terrorists to kidnap the President, the minister described it as laughable and mere propaganda.
“As to those who have issued threats to Mr. President, I think it’s more of propaganda than anything. It’s laughable,” he said.
Mohammed also said the FEC had approved a memo by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, for a standard operation procedure on maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum seekers in Cameroon.
His words: “You all know that due to the insurgency in Cameroon, Nigeria has witnessed an influx of Cameroonian asylum seekers and there’s basic standard procedures for you to be granted status as an asylum seeker.
“This is what the council considered and approved today. And basically, it’s that anybody from Cameroon who’s seeking asylum in Nigeria must first convinced the authorities that he or she has actually renounced armed struggle, before you can even be considered as an asylum seeker.
“Also, there are cases of some of them, who have come even when they claimed to have surrendered their arms, go back at times, to join the separatist movement in Cameroon. So, the procedure was explained and approved today that will evaluate the basic criteria to grant asylum.”
Further on why the issue of asylum seekers should be considered at this time that the country was facing security challenges, Mohammed said, “The issue of the standard operating procedure for asylum seekers from Cameroon is not a matter that started today.
“The issue of the separatist movement in Cameroon is many years old and everyday, because of the proximity of Cameroon to Nigeria, we’ve witnessed an influx of refugees, seeking asylum, and under international regulations, there are certain procedures you must take for asylum seekers.
“So, all we have done today is to establish the standard procedure to ensure that those, who claim to be asylum seekers are actually not insurgents themselves that have come to destabilise Nigeria or people who will come and be launching attacks against their own country from the comfort of Nigeria.”