The opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly have said there is no going back on their resolve to impeach the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), if he fails to address the insecurity in the country within six weeks.
The lawmakers in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, dismissed a report that they had backed down on the plan to remove the President after the expiration of the six-week ultimatum handed down on July 27.
The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, had come under ferocious assaults by terrorists who launched separate attacks on troops and the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre.
The militant attacked the Presidential Guards Brigade troops at Bwari-Kubwa road, Abuja, killing a captain, lieutenant and six soldiers while others sustained injuries.
They also attacked a checkpoint at Zuma rock, a few kilometers from the nation’s capital.
An attack by the Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists on the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, Abuja, resulted in the release of 69 Boko Haram commanders and hundreds of felons on July 5. This happened 24 hours after suspected terrorists attacked the president’s advance team in Katsina.
Following these developments and the impeachment threat against the President by the opposition lawmakers, the National Assembly leadership expressed fears over the worsening insecurity in the country.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, thereafter, summoned the security chiefs to a marathon meeting where he described the security situation as frightening.
The various House Committees on Security similarly met with the security chiefs on the matter.
Speaking to The PUNCH, the People’s Democratic Party Senator representing Osun East senatorial district, Francis Fadahunsi, said it was not true that the opposition were retreating on their move to impeach the President.
According to him, it is a unanimous decision and nothing different has been communicated to them.
When asked if the senators had backtracked on their impeachment plans, he said, “Who said so? Who are the opposition (lawmakers) that met? You did an interview with Senator Gershom Bassey who said that we meant what we said. Those people saying such are not feeling fine.
“Even northern senators are in support of the impeachment; you heard Senator Clifford (Ordia) from Edo, Senator Bulkachuwa (Mohammed) and the rest. So, who are those that told them so?’’
The Osun senator hinted that the lawmakers would remove the Senate President from office in advancement of the moves against Buhari, adding that he had been a victim of the grave insecurity in the country.
Vowing never to back down, Fadahunsi insisted that his voice would not be silenced by anyone.
He added, “Bulkachuwa had earlier moved the motion but the Senate President shot him down because we were not around. Very soon, we will push him out of the place instead of dying one after the other and keeping silent.
‘Lawyer kidnapped twice’
“My lawyer was kidnapped twice on Kogi road; his wife was just released from the hospital after she got shot. Before then, I was also attacked twice, so why will I allow anyone to shut me down from expressing my grievances.
“I have not heard such communication that we are backing down on the impeachment move and, I won’t back down.
Corroborating his colleague, the All Progressives Grand Alliance lawmaker representing Abia South, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, also debunked the claims that the opposition senators had jettisoned their decision to remove Buhari.
Abaribe stated that he was not aware of such a decision as the plenary was adjourned on the same day they moved to impeach the president.
He said, “No such thing. We went on break that same day.”
The Senator representing Benue North West Senatorial District, Senator Orker Jev, also dismissed the insinuation that the opposition senators had stepped down the impeachment move.
“I’m not aware of any such development. Most likely untrue,’’ he stated.
The Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Toby Okechukwu, also debunked the report that the impeachment threat had died.
Faulting the media report on the plan, he said, “Who did they quote? They quoted an anonymous source. How can the Senators back down and there is no name (of those interviewed)?”
Like her colleagues, the Senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Abiodun Olujimi, said the reports that the senators were aborting the impeachment were untrue.
She said, “I am not aware of such a decision, it was a settled issue that we have all agreed on the impeachment of the President if the insecurity state of the nation was not addressed.
“We haven’t held any meetings since then; at least to the best of my knowledge. So, things remain as they are.”
The Senator representing Southern Kaduna and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Danjuma La’ah said the opposition senators had yet to jettison the impeachment threat.
The lawmaker also disclosed to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Sunday night in Kaduna.
When asked if the opposition senators had dropped the impeachment process on the President, La’ah said, “No. We are still on the process” adding that the ultimatum still stands.”
Also, the senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District of Ondo State, Nicholas Tofowomo, said he was not aware of the withdrawal of the threat.
The senator also said such did not happen and if it happened, the minority leader would had informed all the senators concerned about the matter.
He said, “ I am not aware of anything of such. Although we are currently on recess, if there is anything of such it is the responsibility of the minority leader to inform all the opposition senators before any decision would be taken in that regard.”
“The minority leader should have called a meeting where everybody would agree before the decision would be taken but if it truly happened I wasn’t informed.”
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But the spokesperson for the Senate, Ajibola Bashiru, said the senate was not aware of any impeachment threat as no official correspondence had been given on it.
He said, “Honestly, I don’t know anything about that, I am not aware that they have even filed any motion. Before you talk about an impeachment procedure, there must be a motion.
“There was no motion to this effect, neither was there any application. So, I don’t know about any impeachment move.”
Bashiru said a media walkout by the senators did not constitute an impeachment move.
He noted, “If you want to talk about an impeachment, there must be an impeachment notice. Was there any impeachment notice? A media walkout is different from serving an impeachment notice.
“So, I am not aware of any impeachment talks in the first place, I can only talk of the procedure before the National Assembly, not politics. And as far as I know, there is none before the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, a prominent member of the minority caucus in the National Assembly said the opposition lawmakers were watching the moves being made by the executive arm as well as the meeting between the Senate leadership and security chiefs.
The ranking lawmaker, who declined to be quoted, however, refused to state if the six-week ultimatum issued by the caucus would be lifted.
The opposition leader said, “If they address the issues, good for Nigerians. That is what we want. We want the issues addressed. They have started; let us wait and see. It is too early to ask questions about what they are doing.
“Whether the ultimatum stands or not; the most important thing is that we have asked that action be taken. Are the actions being taken or not? That is the question.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, said the opposition lawmakers seemed to have agreed that the available time was inadequate to impeach the President.
“They have started seeing my position as reasonable. The procedural timeline I highlighted opened their eyes to the impracticality of their move. I see them reversing,” he added.
Kalu had last week in an interview with The PUNCH dismissed the ongoing move by the opposition members of the National Assembly to impeach Buhari over the growing insecurity in the country and the failing economy as belated.
According to the House’ spokesman, the regime would have been over by the time the process was concluded.
He noted that section 143 of the 1999 Constitution prescribes various timeframes for each of the processes.
In a related development, the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Army have stated that the Armed Forces, especially the Nigerian Army, cannot address the security challenges bedevilling the country until the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies increase their capacities.
According to leaders of the committees, the security agencies are still underfunded despite the worsening insecurity in the country.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, in an interview with our correspondent, faulted those criticising the huge expenditures on security, arguing that no amount was too much to secure the lives and property of Nigerians.
Ndume stated, “The problem is that the military is not well equipped. The equipment is just coming now in bits. I am not aware that they have received the attack helicopters ordered. The problem is that the money is either not released to them (Armed Forces) or the money is too small.
“Their capital budget is N130bn despite the fact that we have security challenges everywhere. They need more funding. They need more soldiers on the ground. We don’t only need soldiers because it is not only soldiers that will do the work, we need more soldiers; we need more policemen. In fact, most of this work is supposed to be for the police.
“Why will Nigeria be taken seriously when we have over 200 million Nigerians and you have less than one million personnel in the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force and all the security forces combined? Are we serious about addressing our security challenges?
“Even if we didn’t have all these problems, a country of 200 million citizens like ours should at least have a minimum of one million soldiers, at least one million policemen and a good number of officers in the Department of State Services and other security agencies.”
The Borno senator reacted to the delayed payment of troops on the battlefields, saying, “I read yesterday that they were complaining about their money. While people are saying they (Armed Forces) are spending so much and soldiers are saying they have not been paid salaries, can’t you add it up?
“Why this is happening is because whoever is there in the military or the people that are in charge, are not prioritising security. If not, how come up to the 3rd of August, their salaries had not been paid? And you know why? It is because the military did not give them the money on time.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Namdas, also said the Armed Forces has been taking delivery of the arms and ammunition procured with the $1bn withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account in batches.
Namdas, however, decried that the military was being criticised for not doing the job that was statutorily meant for the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.
He noted, “What I know is that in terms of funding, even a supplementary budget was passed and in the budget, a lot of equipment for the Nigerian Army that I oversight was procured.
“They take delivery of this equipment piecemeal because they are not things that one can buy over the shelf. But I know that a substantial amount of the equipment was actually brought into the country and they (Nigerian Army) have started using them.’’
When asked if there were commensurate results, the lawmaker stated that other security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police Force which had the mandate to handle the internal security of the country, should be put on their toes.
In his submission, Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, stressed the need for Nigeria to engage mercenaries, whom he referred to as military contractors, while the security architecture is rejigged.
Benson said, “My opinion as Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, I will always say we should seek assistance. This assistance will also come with hardware and software.
“The contractor will come with their equipment – night goggles and military infrastructure that can aid night operations. They already have these. These will take us a bit of time to put together but these guys already have it at the tip of their fingers.’’
Also, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Adejoro Adeogun, stressed the imperative of intelligence and synergy among the security agencies.
Adeogun added, “I do not think that kind of synergy exists within what we call the action agencies and the intelligence generators. They don’t have that synergy that ensures that the action agencies actually give feedback to the generators.”