By; IYOKPO J. EGBODO, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday called for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari over his decision to approve the payment of $496 million (about N151.4 billion) from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for procurement of Tucano fighter aircraft from the United States, without appropriation by the National Assembly
Speaker Yakubu Dogara had barely finished reading the communication from Buhari, which was dated 13th April, 2018, when a point of order was raised by Hon. Kingsley Chinda, who said the letter was just explaining an action that has already taken place, adding that the President’s action was “an impeachable offence”.
The President who explained that he approved a part of the payment to avert a lapse in the contract, in the letter stated in part; “In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US $496,374,470.00. This was paid directly to the treasury of the United States Government.
“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of US$496,374,470.00 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which the National Assembly is currently finalising. The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, in due course.”
Other lawmakers took turns to condemn the action of the President. Hon. Samson Okwu in his submissions insisted that the House should be seen at all times, acting in tandem with the rule of law, noting that the leadership of the House should write the President, asking for retrieval of the money so far paid.
Similarly, Hon. Shehu Garba urged the House to also ask questions on the alleged expenditure of N1.4 trillion on subsidy for petrol, also without the approval of the National Assembly.
Also, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga said it was “bad for anybody to despise the House” in the manner the President had acted, but called on its leadership to find a way out, While Hon. Pat Asadu opined that the letter should be rejected, and the fund retrieved from the US.
Speaker Dogara after listening to several members, sought the intervention of Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, who however said the letter does not qualify as an appropriation Bill, as contained under order 5 of the House’s rules. Hon. Aliyu Madaki also cautioned that the Speaker in ruling on the matter, must put into consideration, the provisions of the constitution, “which we as members have all sworn to defend”.
Further debate on the letter has been deferred to a yet-be-announced date, as Dogara later explained that it has been the procedure of the House to slate such matters for debat, after which a position is taken. “Sometimes a breach of procedure is as substantive as breach of the extant rule itself, so we are going to slate it for debate”, he said and hit the gavel.