Anti corruption group, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD), has told the House of Representatives that it cannot proved beyond reasonable doubt before a competent Panel duly constituted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, allegation of “Gross Misconduct” against President Muhammadu Buhari in the purchase of $462million fighter jets.
The group averred that the decision taken by President Buhari does not in any interpretation amount to ”gross misconduct” but the House of Representatives, can courageously and patriotically commence the process of impeachment if allegation of “gross misconduct” is lawfully made.
In a statement on Wednesday made available to BigPen Online, President of VATLAD, Comrade (Engr) Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, said, “Section 143 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, only allows for the removal of President or Vice President of Nigeria from office if allegation of “Gross Misconduct” is proved beyond reasonable doubt before a competent Panel duly constituted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
According to him, the decision of President Buhari to authorise the emergency withdrawal of the said amount for the purpose of emergency purchase of these military aircraft in this period of war does not at all constitute “Gross Misconduct” as envisaged by Section 143 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
The statement read in full;
“Having critically analysed sections 80, 81, 143 and 162 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, which deal with Consolidated and Federal Accounts, process of withdrawal of moneys from these accounts and grounds for removal of President (Impeachment) from Office and relevant sections of the Nigerian Public Procurement Act 2007, as amended, we submit that the call for Impeachment of President Buhari by the House of Representatives is too hasty and not supported by the above sections of the Nigerian Constitution and Procurement Act.
“Whereas section 80, 81 and 162 make it mandatory for all moneys accruing to the Federal Republic of Nigeria be paid into the consolidated and federation accounts and that no money shall be withdrawn from the accounts without the approval of the National Assembly through Appropriation, it is imperative to inform the House of Representatives and Nigerians that making such withdrawal for purposes of Emergency Purchase of specialised military aircrafts and equipment for the defence and security of Nigeria at this time of confirmed external aggressions and violation of our Nation’s Territorial Integrity, is supported and justified by the Nigerian Procurement Act and the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.
“Section 76 of the Nigerian Procurement Act recognises Emergency Procurement where the country (Nigeria) is either seriously threatened by or actually confronted with disaster, catastrophe, war, insurrection or act of God.”
“There is no doubt in the minds of members of the House of Representatives and indeed the over 200 million Nigerians that for some years now, terrorist groups from outside Nigeria have continued to declare war on Nigeria, killing our beloved Nigerians and destroying properties.
“It is also imperative to remind members of the National Assembly that by provision of section 217(2), the National Assembly through its Act must adequately and effectively equip and maintain the Armed Forces to defend Nigeria from external aggressions as we have sadly been experiencing for years now.
“It is also a fact that officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces deployed to defend Nigeria from these external aggressors (terrorists) are not adequately and effectively equipped thereby exposing them to their enemies to be killed.
“Our officers and men should not be sent on suicide missions rather they should be deployed and adequately equipped to defend our country and return back safely and gallantly.
“The decision of President Buhari to authorise the emergency withdrawal of the said amount for the purpose of emergency purchase of these military aircraft in this period of war does not at all constitute “Gross Misconduct” as envisaged by Section 143 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
“Section 143 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, only allows for the removal of President or Vice President of Nigeria from office if allegation of “Gross Misconduct” is proved beyond reasonable doubt before a competent Panel duly constituted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“While we agree and encourage the National Assembly to courageously and patriotically commence the process of impeachment against any President of Nigeria, if allegation of “gross misconduct” is lawfully made, we however hold so strongly that this decision taken by President Buhari does not in any interpretation amount to ‘gross misconduct” moreso that President Buhari has now officially informed and sought the consideration and approval of the National Assembly to regularise the purchase.
“Instead of focusing on impeachment proceeding against President Buhari for allegedly not first obtaining the approval of the National Assembly, the National Assembly should immediately commence investigation of the purchase of these aircrafts with a view to ascertaining whether they are worth the amounts paid or not.
“The Government of United States of America should be invited and interrogated since the aircrafts are reported to have been sold by the US. Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, imposes the duty to expose corruption and fraud on the National Assembly with a view to avoiding another $2.1b Arms scandal now being investigated by the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
Recall that House of Representatives had on Tuesday said that President Muhammadu Buhari committed an “impeachable offence” by authorising the purchase of $462million jets for the military without appropriation by the National Assembly.
Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who read a letter from Buhari, informed the House that the expenditure was done in “anticipation of approval” by the National Assembly.
They noted that the letter was a “mere afterthought”, as the expenditure had been done already.
Contributing to debate at the floor of the lower chamber, before the resolution was taken, the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, who raised a point of order to draw the attention of members to the alleged “constitutional breach” by Buhari, said both the 1999 Constitution and other laws in the country did not recognise spending by the President in “anticipation of approval” by the legislature.
Chinda stated, “This matter ($462m) came up last week. Today, Mr. President has admitted that the expenditure has already been incurred.
“We are supposed to be a watchdog, but as it is, we cannot bite. This is an impeachable offence and there is no misconduct that is more serious than this.
“I propose that we commence the impeachment of Mr. President, based on this infraction.”
Story by Julius Eras-Olabowu