$496M aircraft purchase senate, house of reps seek further guidance on next steps – businessday news you can trust businessday news you can trust c gastritis im antrum

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Both the Senate and House of Representatives have taken a decision to seek further guidance on how to handle the alleged constitutional breach by President Muhammadu Buhari in authorising the payment of $496 million to the US government without approval from the National Assembly.

At the Senate, yesterday, April 26, resolution to seek further guidance followed a motion moved by the Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo State) who called on the upper legislative chamber to invoke Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution by impeaching the President.

Moving the motion, Urhoghide submitted that it was procedurally wrong for the President to have withdrawn the money without permission from the National Assembly. He submitted that by the President’s action, Section 80 of the constitution has been grossly violated.

“We all agree that from what has been presented to us, there is a breach of constitution. The question is, what are the circumstances surrounding the breach of the constitution? Whether those circumstances justify the breach of constitution,” Saraki argued that Buhari had enough time to seek the approval of the National Assembly but declined to do so.

“Between September and February, with all due respect, there was ample time for the executive to have carried us along on this issue. It was after we agreed in September that the US government went back to give approval to the executive to pay to their own government so they can go ahead and sell this equipment to Nigeria. If we all agree, I will put it to vote and refer the matter to the judiciary and give them a short period of time, that by Wednesday next week, they submit it.”

Similarly, at the House Representatives, after a heated debate on the constitutionality and procedure Buhari’s request to approve money that has already been spent, the House resolved to verify whether there was precedence by any legislative House in other climes that embarked on approval of already spent fund without prior approval of the National Assembly.

He disclosed that President Buhari’s request as contained in the letter “to make appropriation for expenditure,” was in breach of the Constitutional provisions which empowers National Assembly to appropriate for revenue, as encapsulated in section 80 of the 1999 Constitution.

While stressing the need for the House to be properly guided before taking further action, Dogara stressed that “people are looking unto this House to protect the Constitution, people are looking to us to stand by the truth,” just as he observed that the House has additional responsibility of putting national interest at the front above personal interest.

Lovette Idisi (PDP-Delta) urged the House not to fall into the trap set by the Executive, arguing that “what we have been asked to do is to indict ourselves. Most of us are lawyers here.” He maintained that the request of Buhari was unconstitutional and that section 36(8) prohibits retrospective approval of such request or legislation.

The upper legislative chamber also asked its Committee on Appropriation as well as Public Accounts to liaise with the Executive to submit the appropriation for subsidy to be included in the 2018 budget still under consideration by the National Assembly.

Other recommendations of the panel adopted by the panel included the need for the Federal Government to pay oil marketers the outstanding subsidy arrears owed them prior to 2017 as well as giving local refineries maximum attention to enable them function in optimal capacity.

In their separate contributions, senators including George Akume, Chukwuka Utazi and Binta Garba Masi expressed concern about the recommendations of the committee, pointing out there was no serious sanction for those who approved the subsidy monies spent by the Corporation without recourse to the National Assembly.

“In 2017, NNPC imported 9.8 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit at the cost of USD5,483,634,448.91 amounting to N1,672,508,506,917.55 at the exchange rate of N305. In the previous years, all importers including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had collected subsidy for differentials.