The controversies surrounding the purchase of $496 might not be going away anytime soon, but contrary to claims that the National Assembly is unaware of the deal, clarifications by Senate President, Bukola Saraki shows that US Congress sought the permission of the leadership of the Chambers before the negotiation was approved.
The payment for the fighter jets have been subject of debates in both Chambers of the National Assembly, with some Senators calling for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari for paying the money without first presenting it to the lawmakers for necessary consideration and approval.
The President had already paid for the purchase before writing to the National Assembly based on what he termed “anticipatory approval”, which was explained to mean that the President hoped the lawmakers would understand and approve the purchase based on the necessity and urgency of the purchase.
Call for Impeachment
According to Senator Matthew Urhoghide, the President violated Section 80 of the Constitution which posits that all spending of the Executive must be approved by the legislature.
“As a consequence, the only thing we can draw from 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.”
Re-echoing the position of Senator Urhoghide, Senator Chukwuka Utazi also opined that what the President has done was an “impeachable offence” which should not be taken lightly by the National Assembly.
“A time has come when this senate has to rise up and do the job which the constitution has stipulated that we have to do. If we have a Chief Executive who doesn’t want to behave according to the Constitution, we follow the Constitution to handle such Chief Executive.”
Though, Senator Abu Ibrahim shared a different view, saying monies previously withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) have never been brought to the National Assembly for approval.
Reacting to the opinions of the legislators, Saraki noted that there are security concerns in the Country, and from what was presented by the lawmakers, there is also a breach of the Constitution. But he noted that the circumstances surrounding the breach of constitution be looked into, and that the US had already approached the National Assembly for its verdict on the procurement of the military hardware.
“We were on recess when I got the message from the US Ambassador that the Senate Committee at the Congress of the United States wanted to visit us, because they had got a request from President Trump, to approve for payment of Tucanos but they needed Congress approval.
“And I led the team with the House of Reps members and members here and met with the members of Congress on this issue to give them assurance, so definitely we were aware that at that time.
“We endorsed it to the US congress. It was after we agreed in September that the US Congress now went back to give approval to the Executive to pay.”
He stated that there are arguments for and against the issue, and asked that members shun what he described as “partisan issues.”
He however reiterated the suggestion of the Senate Leader, that the matter be directed to the Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters for the next line of actions.
NEC defends Buhari
The National Executive Council (NEC) also declared its support for President Muhammadu Buhari on the purchase of the Military jets.
Speaking on behalf of the Governors after a security meeting with the President, Governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru said the procurement was in line with National interest and was a “state to state transaction, no middleman.”
“We forget easily, if you recall we have been battling with approval from America to buy this equipment since 2014. We have been begging Americans to sell this equipment to us.
We tried Dubai they could not allow us because it is patented; there is another factory in Brazil, the Federal Government tried we couldn’t get. Then luckily President Donald Trump said ‘is okay to buy.”
“So, we had to quickly pay the money for the equipment before they change their minds because there was also deadline.”
NEC’s argument is however rendered ineffective by the fact that former Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo, was impeached for the same anticipatory approval.
While the Senate leadership was brought in the know by the American Congress, the law provides that the Senate get to know through the Executive Arm of Government and that the Senate approves the expenses before payment is made, and there was ample time.