The presidency on Wednesday, ignored the threat issued by the National Assembly to President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday to take decisive steps on a series of resolutions passed by a joint session of the federal legislature, failing which it shall invoke its constitutional powers against him.
Answering questions from journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the presidency would not respond to the resolutions.
The National Assembly had after a two-hour joint executive session on Tuesday come up with a 12-point resolution, asking the president to address a myriad of problems bedevilling the country or face the music.
But as weighty as the resolutions were, the presidency has resolved not to dignify the National Assembly with a response, effectively challenging the legislature to invoke its constitutional powers if indeed it feels it is up to the task.
The 12-point resolutions read by Senate President Bukola Saraki warned that the National Assembly would not hesitate to evoke its constitutional powers against the executive if nothing was done to address such resolutions, including the persistent harassment and humiliation of perceived enemies of the president.
The National Assembly said the security agencies must be given marching orders by the executive to curtail the sustained slaughter of Nigerians “and protect the lives and properties of Nigerians, as these are the primary duties of any responsible government”.
It also canvassed for the cessation of systemic harassment and humiliation by the executive of perceived political opponents, people with contrary opinions including legislators and the judiciary by the police and other security agencies.
The legislature also reaffirmed its earlier resolution of a vote of no confidence on the Inspector General of Police (IG) Ibrahim Idris, saying he “does nothing other than preside over the killing of innocent Nigerians and consistent framing of perceived political opponents of the president and has outright disregard for constituted authority”.
Also briefing the correspondents in the State House Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said FEC approved a memorandum for the procurement of 68 brand new Ford pick-up operational vehicles from Messrs Wada Autos Limited at the cost of N1.550 billion for the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
According to her, the operational vehicles that are currently available to the NCS are grossly inadequate for effective anti-smuggling activities, adding that the need to effectively patrol the borders of the country, enhance the Customs’ bid to suppress smuggling and increase revenue collection had given rise to the request for the purchase of 68 operational vehicles.
She also said the council approved the report of the National Tax Policy Implementation Committee on Tax Laws Reform.
According to Adeosun, FEC had on February 1, 2017, approved the revised National Tax Policy in order to pave the way for a robust tax system that will promote investment and improve revenue for sustainable national development.
She listed the fiscal objectives of the policy to include the removal of obsolete, ambiguous and contradictory provisions in the extant laws, increase government revenue, simplify the process of paying taxes and doing business, promote micro, small and medium enterprises, and protect the most vulnerable persons in the society.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said FEC also approved five memoranda, which among others, are meant to train non-graduates in various skills that will enable them to be self-employed.
She also said the training and skills acquisition programmes are to be executed through the various categories of the Social Investment Programme.
Just as the presidency elected to remain mute over the 12-point resolution of the National Assembly, including the threat to use its constitutional powers against the president should he choose to ignore the resolutions, the House of Representatives Wednesday resolved to commit two of its members – Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC, Kano) and Hon. Mohammed Gudaji Kazaure (APC, Jigawa) – to its Committee on Ethics and Privileges for investigation.
Both were accused of making unsavoury comments and divulging the issues discussed at a joint executive session of the Senate and the House to the press without authorisation.
Even though Kazuare was in support of the resolutions of the National Assembly, he made it very clear that a group he headed in the House would oppose any attempt to impeach the president.
Jibrin, on the other hand, had among other issues said the joint session was attended solely by lawmakers on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), effectively declaring the resolution a “PDP resolution”.
The decision of the House Wednesday was triggered when Hon. Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi) raised a point of order bordering on breach of privilege.
He berated Jibrin for issuing a statement to the press a few hours after the joint executive session.
Karimi said there was a need for Jibrin to be called to order by the House, as he appeared set to “turn the chamber upside-down”.
He said the deliberate move by the Kano-born lawmaker to subvert the truth was not in the best interest of the green chamber.
Also, coming under the same matter of breach of privilege, Hon. Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) and Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) – both of whom were fingered by Kazaure as being the arrowheads in the call for Buhari’s impeachment in the lower chamber – denied the allegation and demanded that Kazaure be made to face a disciplinary committee.
Ossai said contrary to Kazaure’s claim, he was not one of those alleged to have collated signatures to impeach the president.
Chinda, on his part, said he would not have bothered if the allegations were true, adding that it was the job of lawmakers to initiate an impeachment process against the president, more so when it is done in tandem with the law.
He, however, expressed concern that the issues raised by Kazaure concerning the executive session were half-truths.
Ossai, who chairs the House Ethics and Privileges Committee, however, objected to the suggestion to refer Kazaure to the committee so as to avoid being a judge in his own case.
But House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, insisted Kazaure should face the committee while Ossai could recuse himself from the investigation and allow his deputy to take charge in the particular case involving him.
The Speaker specifically expressed concern that he witnessed a number of members sneaking out of the executive session without canvassing any position only to speak to the press thereafter.
He advised members to always stick to the truth and not mislead the public on the activities of the parliament.
He subsequently referred Jibrin and Kazaure to the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the House.
Back and Forth by Police
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police have again reversed themselves by insisting that Senate President Bukola Saraki must appear in person before the Force Intelligence Response Unit in Abuja for questioning over the Offa bank robberies and the killing of 33 people in Kwara State.
This was as the police said they had arrested two more gang leaders in connection with the investigation into the Offa robberies.
The police alleged that the gang leaders were political thugs and were carrying out clandestine operations for Saraki.
The police on Sunday had asked Saraki to report to the Force Intelligence Response Unit after it alleged that some of the suspects linked to the Offa robberies in their custody had implicated the Senate President.
But just as the Senate President had asked his aide to go to the Force headquarters on Monday to get the letter of invitation, he returned with a letter stating that Saraki’s presence was no longer required, but was expected to send a written response to the police within 48 hours.
However, the police made another about turn Wednesday when they said Saraki would have to appear in person to explain his role in the robberies in his home state.
Briefing the press Wednesday, the police spokesman, ACP Moshood Jimoh, said contrary to claims by the Senate President that he was to respond through a written statement within 48 hours, the police were still standing by its earlier invitation issued via a press briefing on Sunday.
Jimoh was adamant that Saraki must appear before the Force Intelligence in Guzape, Abuja, to explain his involvement and alleged link to the gang leaders and principal suspects of the robbery attacks.
According to him, investigators were still expecting the Senate President to report at police unit to explain his links to the suspects, irrespective of what the contents of the letter as claimed by Saraki stating to the contrary.
“The invitation was never withdrawn, I read to you (journalists) that the Senate President was being invited to come and answer to the allegations levelled against him by the five gang leaders here. As I said earlier, the Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki has a case to answer,” Jimoh said.