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Published On: Fri, Apr 27th, 2018

NEC defends purchase of $496m fighter Jets

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  • …As NASS asks more questions
  • …Lawmakers to meet Buhari in a joint session

By Lawrence Olaoye, Ikechukwu Okaforadi, Musa Adamu and Christiana Ekpan

The National Economic Council (NEC) has defended the release of $496 million for the purchase of 12 military fighter jets by President Muhammadu Buhari without National Assembly appropriation.
The Council equally recommended a ban on movement of cattle across the country urging state governments to make land available for ranching.
This is just as the Council puts the balance on the nation’s Excess Crude Accounts at $1.829 billion.
The release of the $496 million for the purchase of Tucano military jets to fight insecurity in the country by the President has been at the heart of a fresh confrontation with the lawmakers who have begun to call for Buhari’s impeachment.
The lawmakers alleged that the authorization of the withdrawal was in contravention of a section of the constitution which gave the National Assembly powers to appropriate before expenditure.
Briefing newsmen after the Council meeting chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru said, “We forget easily. If you recall, we have been battling with approval from America to buy these equipment in 2014. We have been begging America to sell these equipment to us. We tried Dubai, they could not allow us; we tried a factory in Brazil; the FG tried, we couldn’t get it. The America still could not sell to Nigeria. Then luckily, President (Dinald) Trump said it was okay to buy. So, we had to quickly buy before they change their minds. Because there is also deadline and this is a state to state transaction, no middleman; and we are all here concerned about security and they are raising questions on way and manner you protect people. This is an emergency situation.”
Similarly briefing newsmen, Ebonyi State governor and chairman of NEC sub-committee on resolution of herders/farmers clashes in the country, Dave Umahi, said his panel bans open grazing and instead recommended ranching.
He said his committee consisting of the governors of Adamawa and Plateau states visited the five states of Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Jigawa and Zamfara states.
However, members of the National Assembly separately raised more questions yesterday about President Muhammadu Buhari’s withdrawal of $496 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the purchase of the Tucano helicopters to fight insecurity.
At the Senate, opposition lawmakers had accused the President of committing grave constitutional breaches by withdrawing $499 million for the purchase of the fighter aircraft without the approval of the National Assembly, as required by the Section 80, sub section (1,2,3,4), hence an impeachable offense has been committed by him.
However, when the matter was brought forward for debate by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Mathew Urhogide (PDP, Edo), the Senate rather unanimously agreed that the matter be referred to the Senate committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters, to ascertain if an infraction has been committed by the President, and to guide the Senate on the best decision to take.
In his motion, Mathew Urhogide had argued that the appropriation of any funds belonging to the country is the exclusive preserve of the National Assembly, adding that what the President has done is a violation of the section 80, sub section 1,2,3,4, of the 1999 constitution.
He emphasized that by law, the President must come to National Assembly for the expenditure, but added that though the motive of the expenditure is well established, the manner did not go through the normal process.
At this juncture, he said there are serious consequences for violation of the constitution, urging that the Senate should not speak much on the issue, but simply invoke section 143 of the constitution, which deals with the impeachment of the President, insisting that the extra budgetary spending by the President is wrong and must be condemned and punished.
Similarly, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), followed suit by quoting the same section 80, and consolidated it with citations from sub section 4, and section 81, sub section 2, by which he pointed out such expenditures by the President must come in the form of a Bill.
He said this is not the first time the president is committing infractions against the Constitution, recalling that the service chiefs were appointed and they assumed office without being confirmed by the Senate. He said also that the air crafts which was purchased by the President will be used for the 2020 operation, wondering why the haste.
While reminding the senators that time has come for them to stand and be accounted among those who defended the constitution and democracy, he insisted that the alleged constitutional infraction is an impeachable offense.
Also contributing, the Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), reminded his colleagues that late Chuba Okadigbo was impeached as Senate President for granting anticipatory approval. He said the issues should be considered on its merits, pointing out that what is wrong is wrong irrespective of what party is in power, hence they should follow due process to address the constitutional breaches of the President.
However, the tune changed when Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), posited that though the President has contravened the relevant sections of the Constitution, he will not support any impeachment moves against the President.
He enjoined the senators not to be unmindful of the security situation of Nigeria today, lamenting that people are killed daily in states of Kogi and Benue, among others. He said as an elected leader of the country, the President is under a responsibility to stop the killings especially as Nigeria is becoming a slaughter state.
He, however, argued that the security situation in the county does not exonerate the constitutional breaches by the President, hence he requested that the President should be made to refund the money and follow normal budgetary procedure, rather than the senate contemplating to impeach the President.
According to him, If they allow the infractions today, they cannot challenge it tomorrow, noting that it is a dangerous precedence because money spent can’t be returned, adding that it very clear that the President spent the money on a genuine motives, but only that due process was not followed.
Also, the House of Representatives yesterday witnessed another rowdy session over President Muhammadu Buhari’s $496 million for the purchase of the Super Tucano aircraft and threatened to throw away the request.
The president had made advanced payment on the purchase of the aircraft from monies not appropriated for by the National Assembly as a letter from him announcing the development had caused an uproar in the House on Tuesday when the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara read it.
Members had expressed anger that the president would unilaterally expend funds not legislated.
But the speaker saved the day, saying that the members would have another chance to make inputs when the matter which was termed a bill was formally enlisted on the Order Paper for Second Reading.
On Thursday when the matter came up, the members also flared up yet again, asking the House to “throw it away”.
Relying on Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution, the House said that it was an illegality, stressing that the President had breached all known legislative norms and conventions as Members took turns to aggressively bare their minds on the issue, condemning the presidential action.
The debates followed a motion titled “Request to include the sum of US$496,374,470.00 in the 2018 Appropriation Bill for the Purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft from the United States Government”, moved by Hon. Mohammed Monguno on behalf of the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who was absent at Thursday plenary.
Moving the motion, Monguno said: “Note that on Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria sent a message to notify the house of representatives of the decision to purchase super Tucano aircraft under a direct Government to Government arrangement with the United States of America.
“Also notes that the president having considered that this highly specialized aircraft is critical to national security, granted presidential anticipation approval for the release of $496,374,470.00 which was paid directly to the treasury of the United States Government for the purchase of the aircraft.
“Informed that in the said letter, the president sought the approval of the house of representatives for the sum of $496,374,470.00 (N151,394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 appropriation bill currently before the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday gave the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, the deadline of Wednesday next week to appear before the senate in plenary to answer questions on why the killings by the herdsmen have continued unabated.
The senate also resolved to meet President Muhammadu Buhari in a joint session with the House of Representatives to elicit information from him on what specific actions the government is taking to curtail and bring the killings to an end.
These were fallout from the debate on the motion moved by senator Gorge Akume (APC, Benue north West), which he titled “Continued killings in Benue state”, in which he invited the senate to note with dismay the continued wanton killing and maiming of innocent civilians in Benue.
He said the killings have continued unabated since January, resulting in the federal government embarked on a military exercise named operation cat race, to curb the killings and distractions in Nasarawa, Taraba Benue and Taraba states.
He lamented that despite the military presence, there is no end in sight to the wanton killings, recalling that on the morning of Tuesday 24th April, while some Christian faithfuls were gathered at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Ayar town in Gwer East local government area, for their routine morning mass and burial ceremony, they were ambushed by armed gunmen who opened fire indiscriminately on the worshipers resulting in the death of two reverend fathers, a catechist and seventeen others.

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