FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU writes that lawyers are backing opposition lawmakers at the National Assembly over their plans to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari. The men of the wig and gown argued that the lawmakers’ threat is justified going by the frightening insecurity challenges facing the nation
“It is even coming too late. They should have done this over two years ago, when, after his second ticket, he showed no sign of improvement in his leadership capacity and governance style.
Do you not know that Nigeria has fallen into the category of failed states, with non-state actors dictating to Buhari’s legitimately elected government?”, one of them said.
Another one said: “There is no element of reasonable assurance of security anywhere in this country. That has failed. This means that there is no government. If there is any government at all, it has failed to fulfil its statutory responsibility to the people.
“The lawmakers are the people who represent their constituents in the National Assembly. They can feel fear in the mind of everyone due to insecurity in our land. What this means is that the government has failed”.
The above quotes are part of submissions of some senior lawyers who are in support of the threat by opposition lawmakers at the National Assembly to impeach President Buhari over his failure to tackle the rising insecurity problem in the country.
The menace of rising insecurity is posing a major cause of concern to Nigerians and saying that the Buhari-led government is overwhelmed may not be far from the truth. The worrisome development prompted opposition members of the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly to on July 27, 2022, issued a threat to commence impeachment proceedings against the president if he fail to address the high level of insecurity in the nation within six weeks.
Before this time, the opposition lawmakers have gone on the offensive by staging a walkout from the Red Chamber apparently after the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, allegedly refused to abide by the resolutions reached across party lines at a closed-door session.
Briefing journalists at the National Assembly in Abuja after a closed-door session, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Phillip Aduda, stated, “We are here to tell Nigerians that as senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we are disappointed with the way the worsening security situation across the country is being handled.
“We held a closed-door session for two hours, where it was resolved that the issue will be deliberated upon in plenary with an agreed resolution to give President Muhammadu Buhari six weeks to address it or face impeachment by both chambers of the National Assembly.
“Our walking out of the chamber is to express our disappointment in the way the matter was later handled by the Senate President. “President Buhari has been given all he wanted in terms of adequate funding of the security agencies but nothing to show for it. He needs to shape up or ship out”.
Green Chamber’s concurrence
Minority members of the Senate are not alone in the moves to send the president packing from office if he fails to tackle the security challenges confronting the nation. Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, revealed that the impeachment plan had the support of some All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers.
Elumelu spoke after a meeting of the National Assembly PDP caucus held on July 28, 2022 in Abuja. He said: “I want to join my colleagues in saying that upon expiration, we will prefer ways of ensuring we gather all the signatures. Let me make it clear, for those who are thinking it is an issue of only PDP or minority caucus, no, many of our colleagues, under the bipartisanship – all of them are affected.
Many of them. So, they may not be speaking but we will be speaking for them. “We are asking Mr President to address insecurity in this country within six to eight weeks or else we will find the constitutional means to ensure that we serve him impeachment notice”.
While the meeting lasted, the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives officially joined its Senate counterpart in issuing a six weeks ultimatum to the president to address worsening security challenges in the country or risk being impeached.
However, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, while faulting the impeachment option, argued that the communication mechanism between the National Assembly and the Presidency has not been fully explored or exhausted.
Omo-Agege, who is of the ruling APC insisted that the move was wrong, “because the National Assembly, particularly the Senate had other means of discussing with the executive arm of government and getting it to address issues other than impeachment”.
Omo-Agege spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yomi Odunuga, where he posited that it was wrong to rush the issue of impeachment without exhausting all channels of communication between the Senate and the president.
Though the Deputy Senate President admitted that the issue of increasing spate of insecurity is germane and serious, he revealed that everyone in the Senate, including him, had expressed worries on the matter during Senate plenaries.
“Impeachment is an extreme measure usually taken when all communication mechanisms and options between the Presidency and the National Assembly had been exhausted. In this case, we are yet to exhaust these processes”, Omo-Agege said.
But the Presidency, in a swift reaction, was confident that the National Assembly cannot effect the removal of President Buhari owing to the numerous security lapses in the country.
It specifically boasted that the ruling political party, APC, has the majority of lawmakers in the Red Chamber, thereby making it impossible for the minority to have their way. The Presidency, through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, watered down the possibility of his boss being sacked from office.
Adesina maintained: “The National Assembly has a self-regulatory mechanism. It is so composed that minorities can’t have their way.
“They cannot force it down the throats of the majority and fortunately, in those Chambers, we have sensible people who will say ‘No, it’s true we have insecurity in the country and the president is doing his best, so let us continue to encourage the security agencies to do better.’ “Mr President is not going to wave a magic wand to solve the security issues.
No one has such a magic wand. It is something that would be done methodically. “It’s something that will be done systematically. It’s not going to be by magic wand.
There’s no magic wand to solve this kind of problem.” Adesina was echoed by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who described the impeachment threat as babyish and ridiculous.
“The performative and babyish antics of those senators staging a walkout 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”, he said.
While describing the action of the lawmakers as ‘headline-grabbing stunts’, for which the opposition is now well known, Shehu added, “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 daily. 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”.
Instances of security breach
It is not in doubt that Nigeria is being confronted with multiple challenges and security remains a major chunk of the challenges. It is also not untrue that attacks executed by criminal gangs and Islamist militants have occurred in many regions, and more recently the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
For instance, on July 5, 2022, there was an attack on Kuje Correctional Centre where hundreds of prisoners, including some inmates convicted or charged with terrorism were set free by suspected terrorists. More worrisome is also the killing of troops on patrol at the FCT when they clashed with armed men. Also not left behind in the onslaught by armed men are schools where large-scale abductions are being carried out.
This has eventually led to the government, directing that both public and private schools be shut down to prevent children from being abducted. In specific terms, education came to a standstill in Abuja, when the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on July 25, 2022, closed all six Federal Government Colleges (better known as Unity Schools) in the FCT while the students were in the middle of their end-of-year examinations.
According to the Minister, the directive became imperative due to “a security breach on Sheda and Lambata villages, suburbs of Kwali Area Council which also threatened FGC Kwali.”
On the same day that the Minister shut Unity Schools in the FCT, terrorists also murdered an officer and two men of the elite Brigade of Guards of the Nigerian Army who were ambushed after they visited the Nigerian Law School in Bwari, sequel to a distress call from the school’s management that terrorists had dropped a letter indicating an imminent attack on the school.
On July 28, 2022, armed terrorists attacked another military unit near Zuma Rock on the border between the FCT and Niger State, killing at least two soldiers in an attack which lasted for almost an hour during which no one in the command structure could mobilise assistance or reinforce ments for the besieged soldiers. The president advance team was also not spared in the onslaught.
This was because on July 6, 2022, in Dutsinma, Katsina State, a separate band of terrorists attacked President Buhari’s advance team heading to his village to prepare for his arrival for Eid.
On the same day, the police in the state confirmed that “an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Aminu Umar, and another police officer were killed in a terrorist ambush in Dutsinma.
Constitutional provision for impeachment
Section 143(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides that to commence the process, the notice must be signed by onethird (1/3) of the members of the National Assembly.
It is worthy of note that the National Assembly is made up of 109 senators and 360 House of Representatives members and as such, one-third of the 469-member National Assembly stands at 157. Furthermore, the notice, which must contain the offence of the president, Constitutional provision must be presented to the President of the Senate, who has the responsibility to serve the notice to the President and every member of the National Assembly within seven days. The motion must also get the approval of two-third (2/3) members of each chamber before an investigation could be launched.
A rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, threw his weight behind the impeachment plot, saying the action of the lawmakers are perfectly in order.
According to him, “It is even coming too late. They should have done this over two years ago, when, after his second ticket, he showed no sign of improvement in his leadership capacity and governance style. Surely, you cannot give what you don’t have (nemo dat quod non habet).
However, the silk was sceptical about the ability of the 9th National Assembly to carry out the threat, saying it is too weak to do so. His words: “It will evaporate into thin air. It possesses no teeth, not even gum, to bite.
It can never mobilise the required two-thirds majority votes under Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution, to carry out the impeachment threat, otherwise, President Muhammadu Buhari has done more than enough to deserve impeachment”. Ozekhome identified what he sees as prostrate, and insecurity as some of the failures of the president.
He added: “Do you not know that Nigeria has fallen into the category of failed states, with nonstate actors dictating to Buhari’s legitimately elected government? Do you not know that Abuja, the federal capital, is no longer safe, with bandits and Boko Haram strolling freely, bulldozing their way into Kuje prison and releasing their fellow inmates?”.
Speaking in the same vein, another member of the Inner Bar, Mr. Femi Falana, noted that efforts of Buhari’s administration at curtailing challenges of insecurity facing the nation, “are not enough as they have not yielded positive results, hence, the call for the president’s resignation since he says he is anxious to return home”.
Falana, while also expressing doubts about the seriousness of the opposition senators as to their plans to impeach the president, said: “If they had wanted to commence the impeachment of the president, they would have signed and serve an impeachment notice pursuant to Section 143 of the Constitution. They did not sign the notice since the impeachment may not succeed because the APC controls both chambers of the National Assembly.”
On his part, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), who also referenced Section 14 (2) of the Constitution to buttress his support for the impeachment threat, described same as the confirmation of the reality of the failure of Buhari’s government. He said: Section 14(2) reads: “It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:
(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
(b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government: and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured following the provi- reinforcesions of this Constitution.”
The human rights lawyer expressed sadness that the Buhari’s administration has failed to fulfil its statutory responsibilities to Nigerians, citing heinous cases of insecurity across all states. The senior lawyer further noted that the federal lawmakers “are the people who represent their constituents in the National Assembly.
They can feel fear in the mind of everyone due to insecurity in our land. What this means is that the government has failed. “There is no element of reasonable assurance of security anywhere in this country. That has failed. This means that there is no government. If there is any government at all, it has failed to fulfil its statutory responsibility to the people.
“The call is justified. I support it and a good number of Nigerians support it. Presently, we have reached a dead end. People can no longer sleep. They can no longer travel freely. They can no longer farm.
“There is nothing people can do reasonably with some level of assurance because bandits, insurgents and terrorists have taken over. They have a plan to kidnap the president. They are working towards that goal every day. “I challenge the civil society actors, human rights campaigners, professional bodies and the people of Nigeria to rise and intensify the campaign to get rid of incompetent leadership.
“Civil society organisations should play a major role in the campaign for the removal of the president. I also urge the people of Nigeria to become more sensitive and be involved in holding the government accountable”. In his own submissions, Mallam Ahmed Raji (SAN), opined that the threat is a welcome development if it would make the president wake up to his responsibility of protecting lives and property.
Raji said: “The state of insecurity calls for grave concern. All efforts must be made to reverse the trend. If it will take the impeachment threat to wake up everyone, it is a good strategy by the distinguished senators. I pray we quickly fix the security problems in the interest of all of us”.