Omololu Ogunmade and Damilola Oyedele in in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari may have survived a strong bid by some members of the National Assembly to impeach him over the payment of $496 million to the United States Government for the purchase of 12 Tucano military aircraft without the authorisation of the legislature as required by the 1999 Constitution as altered.
The Senate had asked its committee on Judiciary, penultimate week to look into the payment and determine if there had been a breach of the constitution, and if yes, what it should do in the circumstances.
The committee’s report which was due last week, would, however, be laid on Tuesday.
Reliable sources told THISDAY that the decision to jettison the impeachment bid stemmed from intense lobby of the leadership of the National Assembly, by the president and his aides.
Perhaps aware of the impending soft landing, yesterday the president felt comfortable enough to tell the nation why he wants a second term of office, saying it is motivated by the desire to serve the people better and improve their welfare.
Buhari had come under intensive fire since THISDAY reported exclusively his letter to the National Assembly requesting its approval for the payment made for the military hardware without appropriation.
Accused of breaching the Constitution, many legislators in both chambers had canvassed for his impeachment. He was, however, given some respite by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who skilfully steered their angry members away from that direction and sought to buy time for tempers to cool by referring the matter to their appropriate committees for advice.
Buhari had, in his letter seeking approval for the expenditure, had explained that the payment was made to beat a February deadline stipulated by the military hardware manufacturers.
But debating the request, many legislators, including Senator Matthew Uroghide (Edo PDP) and Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers PDP) had argued that the president action was in clear breach of Section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, which provides “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”
They, therefore, urged their colleagues to invoke section 143 of the Constitution, which outlines the modalities for impeaching the president.
Some senators, however, argued that the president’s offence did not warrant impeachment since he acted in the interest of national security.
But as the debate raged, the leadership of both chambers applied moderation to find a breathing space for the president.
This, THISDAY learnt at the weekend paid off bountifully.
A source disclosed that the president seized the opportunity to meet with Saraki and Dogara, who then prevailed on the committees to give him a soft landing.
The source further explained that the committee would find a way to slightly exonerate the president on the basis of section 83 (1) (2) of the constitution, which border on contingency fund.
The sections read: (1) the National Assembly may by law make provisions for the establishment of a Contingencies Fund for the Federation and for authorising the President, if satisfied that there has arisen an urgent and unforeseen need for expenditure for which no other provision exists, to make advances from the Fund to meet the need.