Insecurity: Can NASS carry out impeachment threat?

As the terrorists and other violent criminals continue to cause havoc in Nigeria, members of the 9th National Assembly have threatened President Muhammadu Buhari with impeachment if he failed to tackle the issues head-on. Can they carry out their threat? ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU asks.

Senator and members House of Representatives across party lines gave President Muhammadu Buhari a six-week ultimatum to properly address worsening insecurity in the country or face impeachment.

Terrorists and other violent criminals have in the last seven years have continued to kill, kidnap and commit other crimes, yet the lawmakers seemed to have pretended as if nothing was happening.

However, following the incursion of these criminals into the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and coupled with the recent threat to abduct President Buhari; the Kaduna state Governor, Nasir El-Rufai; and lawmakers in the country; the Senators suddenly woke up from their slumber.

Led by Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda, the Senators staged a walkout from the upper chambers to address journalists as they chanted ‘All we are saying Buhari must go.

Speaking on behalf of the legislators, Aduda explained, “…We also took into cognisance that the Senate at various fora, at various times, and various meetings, recommended to government various steps aimed at curbing this issue of insecurity but we have realised that even Abuja is no safer.

“So, at the closed session we agreed that we will give the President an ultimatum failing for which 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 not with them.”

Reps back upper chamber

Similarly, the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, expressed solidarity with the Senate caucus.

He said “In effect, Nigeria is at a standstill. So, having looked at all these scenarios and the reason behind why our colleagues walked out in the Senate, we are of the opinion that we will also join them.

“They have given six to eight weeks for Mr President to address the insecurity that is affecting this nation, and I want to also join, on behalf of my colleagues, to also say that upon the expiration, we will proffer ways of ensuring that we will gather all the signatures.”

Impeachment process

As contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) a sitting President can be impeached if found guilty of gross misconduct.

Gross misconduct according to the constitution is “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of the constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly, to gross misconduct.”

Notably, the procedure for impeaching a President is quite stringent, as captured in Section 143. It requires the presentation of notice of allegation(s) in writing detailing the instances of gross misconduct on the part of the president.

As stated, the notice must be signed by at least two-third of members of the two chambers of the National Assembly and presented to the Senate President.

Then the Senate President must, within seven days, serve the President and each member of the National Assembly a copy of the notice of allegation(s).

Once the above was done, the President has a right to reply to the allegations in writing and may also choose not to reply.

If he replies, copies of his written response must be served to each member of the federal legislature.

Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Senate President, each of the two chambers of the National Assembly shall resolve through a motion, without any debate, whether or not the allegation(s) be investigated.

Also, the motion requires two-third majority support of members in the two chambers to fly. If the motion failed to get the required majority votes, the process would be terminated at this point and no further action would be taken.

However, if it gets the required majority votes, the Senate President would, within seven days of passing the motion, call on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to appoint a seven-member panel, who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity to investigate the allegation(s).

Members of the panel must not be public servants, serving members of the legislature or members of any political party.

The panel would then report its findings within three months of its inauguration and present the same to the two chambers of the National Assembly.

The panel must give the President the right to defend himself, either in person or through a legal representative of his choice.

If the panel found no merit in the allegation(s), the process would be discontinued forthwith. On the other hand, if the panel resolved that the allegation(s) had merit, the National Assembly would consider the report and the resolution for the adoption of the report would be moved in the two chambers.

However, the resolution must be supported by at least two-third majority of (all) members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Once adopted, the President stands removed from office immediately.

Interestingly, once the President was impeached, the office holder was expected to vacate office immediately.

If there was a sitting vice president at the time, he/she would take over and would take the oath of office as President.

However, in a case where the president is impeached alongside the vice president, the Senate President would step in as president for a period not exceeding three months.

Within this period, a fresh election would be conducted to elect a new president that would complete what was left of the tenure of the impeached president.

Current NASS can’t impeach Buhari – Analyst

Speaking on the development, a political analyst who understands the workings of the National Assembly, Aminu Mohammed, said for obvious reasons the 9th Assembly can’t impeach President Buhari.

Mohammed in a phone interview with Blueprint Weekend observed that like in the past, an impeachment threat would make a sitting president address issues of concern.

He said, “For so many reasons, it is obviously impossible for this current National Assembly to impeach President Buhari.

“Aside from the numerous constitutional requirements and the difficulty in getting the required number, some factors like party loyalty, religious and tribal sentiments will all stall it.

“Also, the leadership of the two chambers are loyal to President Buhari, so how do these lawmakers want to pass them? Can they impeach their leaders first? No, I don’t see that happening.

“Another thing is that we are just a few months away from the 2023 general elections, many of the lawmakers are seeking re-election. So, the lawmakers don’t have that time and mind you the impeachment process can drag till January 2023.

“Other political actors will also play roles. And most of them are now focused on the 2023 general elections. They will do anything possible to prevent impeachment because it is an unwanted distraction that may affect the elections.

“So, despite the insecurity in some parts of the country, the 9th NASS can’t and for obvious reasons may not impeach President Buhari. However, the move will make the government to sit up and address all issues as soon as possible.”

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