House of Representatives members on Tuesday, condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s release of $496m for purchase of military aircrafts from the United States without National Assembly’s approval.
The members bared their minds at plenary after the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, read the president’s letter informing the House of the expenditure in respect of Super Tucano aircraft purchase agreement with the US.
In the letter dated April 13, 2018, Buhari pleaded with the House to accommodate the over 496 million dollars expenditure as supplementary input to the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
Buhari drew the attention of the House to ongoing security emergencies in the country.
He also informed the members of National Economic Council’s decision on December 14, 2017, authorizing the release and utilization of one billion dollars from Excess Crude Account to address the situation.
The president said that subsequent upon the approval, his administration was preparing a comprehensive schedule of all requirements for each of the security services for presentation to the National Assembly for consideration.
“It would be recalled that for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the US government for the purchase of Super Tucano aircrafts under a direct government-to-government arrangement.
“Recently, approval was finally granted by the US government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise the contract would lapse.
“In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialized aircraft, which is critical to national security, l granted anticipatory approval for the release of $496, 374, 470. 00.
“This was paid directly to the treasury of the US government.
“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of N151, 394, 421, 335 to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
“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.
“The Minister of Defense and other appropriate officers will be available to provide further details as may be required,” he said.
Dogara had barely finished reading Buhari’s letter before the lawmakers expressed anger that Buhari approved such huge expenditure in breach of the Constitution, which stipulated how the nation’s resources could be expended through appropriation by the National Assembly.
Rep. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers-PDP) raised a Point-of-Order, saying that the Constitution did not give room for anticipatory approval of the budget.
He declared that “the decision of the president is an impeachable offence.”
Also Rep. Sunday Karimi (Kogi-PDP) expressed concern that the deposit paid by Nigeria on the aircrafts was done without the approval of the National Assembly considering the fact that the aircrafts were to be delivered in 2020.
Similarly, Rep. Loveth Idisi (Delta-PDP) declared that what had happened was wrong, adding that “based on precedents, if the Constitution says the process is wrong then it is wrong.
“If it says it is an impeachable offence then let the process begin.”
Rep. Ali Madaki (Kano-APC), in his comments, advised the House to follow the Constitution without fear or favour, insisting that “what the Presidency did was impeachable.”
However, two lawmakers, Rep. Pat Asadu (Enugu-PDP) and Rep. Samson Okwu (Benue-PDP) held different opinions, asking the House to write to the president demanding the return of the money into Nigeria’s treasury pending National Assembly’s approval.
According to them, if the president declines, the House can commence the impeachment process.
Rep. Shehu Garba (Kaduna-PDP) said that the House should also demand for an explanation of the N4 billion spent daily on fuel subsidy without the approval of the National Assembly.
In his ruling, Dogara said “an appropriation can only be done through a bill and the House would want to operate within the ambit if the rules.”
He, thereafter, ruled that the president’s request as contained in the letter would be debated on another legislative day.