President Muhammadu Buhari was scheduled to appear before the Joint Session of National Assembly penultimate Thursday 10th December but he did not show up and no official communication to the lawmakers in that regard.
Following a House of Representatives resolution that Buhari should appear before the legislators to brief them on what his government is doing to check the rising insecurity in the nation, Buhari promised to address the lawmakers but a day before the scheduled date, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami issued a statement claiming that the National Assembly lacks constitutional power to summon Buhari, triggering speculations that Mr President will not show up as promised.
It was gathered that as soon as the House came up with the resolution inviting Buhari to appear before the lawmakers, the leadership of the two chambers including the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila met with Buhari at Presidential Villa, Abuja and convinced him to honour the House invitation, promising good control of the lawmakers.
Though Senate did not invite Buhari, but in order not to ridicule the upper legislative chamber, Buhari agreed to address the joint session of the National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives.
Gbajabiamila confirmed that Buhari had agreed to address the lawmakers over the degenerating security in the country few days after the resolution.
On Monday 7th December, Personal Assistant on Social Media to the President, Lauretta Onochie, also said President Muhammadu Buhari will on Thursday address a joint session of the National Assembly.
Ms Onochie disclosed this via her official Twitter handle.
FireFLASHFire, FireFLASHFire President @MBuhari will address a joint session of the National Assembly (@nassnigeria) on Thursday 10th December 2020,” the president’s aide stated.
Buhari’s invitation was sequel to a motion by a member of the House of Representatives lamenting on how over 43 rice farmers were slaughtered by Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State.
However, the meeting of APC Governors with Buhari changed the narrative as the governors feared that Buhari’s appearance at the National Assembly will further weaken the ruling party chances in 2023.
The statement of Malami in the eve of Buhari’s scheduled visit to the National Assembly was a directive from Presidency as an excuse to shun the House invitation.
Malami in the statement titled ‘Buhari’s Summon: NASS Operates Outside Constitutional bounds,’ said President Muhamamdu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has recorded tremendous success in containing the hitherto incessant bombing, colossal killings, wanton destruction of lives and property that bedeviled the country before attaining the helm of affairs of the country in 2015.
“The confidentiality of strategies employed by the President as the commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not open for public exposure in view of security implications in probable undermining of the war against terror.
“The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari was instrumental to the reclaiming of over 14 Local Governments previously controlled by the Boko Haram in North East is an open secret; the strategies for such achievement are not open for public exposure.
“While condoling the bereaved and sympathizing with the victims of the associated insecurity in the country, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN maintained that national security is not about publicity and the nation’s security architecture cannot be exposed for the sake of getting publicity.”
He said Mr. President has enjoyed Constitutional privileges attached to the Office of the President, including exclusivity and confidentiality investiture in security operational matters, which remains sacrosanct.
Malami added that the National Assembly has no Constitutional Power to envisage or contemplate a situation where the President would be summoned by the National Assembly on operational use of the Armed Forces.
He said the right of the President to engage the National Assembly and appear before it is inherently discretionary in the President and not at the behest of the National Assembly.
“The management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested in the President by Section 218 (1) of the Constitution as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
An invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the Armed Forces to a public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law making beyond bounds.
“As the Commander in Chief, the President has exclusivity on security and has confidentiality over security. These powers and rights he does not share. So, by summoning the President on National Security operational Matters, the House of Representative operated outside constitutional bounds. President’s exclusivity of constitutional confidentiality investiture within the context of the constitution remains sacrosanct,” he said.
The statement attracted mix-reactions from different quarters, with the House of Representatives Minority Leader stating that APC fiddles with propaganda while Nigeria burns.
The House of Representatives Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, on Wednesday faulted the statement of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, on the powers of the National Assembly to summon Mr President, saying the AGF was only airing the position of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Okechukwu, a senior lawyer, disagreed with Malami, describing the AGF’s position as “strange”.
He said that the invitation was a prudent effort on the part of the legislature to find a lasting solution to the worsening insecurity in the country, adding that the President’s willingness to appear was evident in his interaction with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
“Without making undue efforts to win an argument, Section 89 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended clearly empowers the Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with Section 62 of the Constitution to procure evidence, written or oral and to ‘summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place.
“Therefore the attempt to pressurise Mr. President not to appear clearly shows that some highly placed political actors in the ruling party are placing politics over the protection of lives of Nigerians.
The APC is evidently fiddling with propaganda and politics while Nigeria burns”, he stated.
The lawmaker, who represents Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency, Enugu State, described as unfortunate a situation where every invitation by a branch of government to another branch to interact towards addressing any national challenges was considered as demeaning, thereby triggering unnecessary flexing of muscles.
“It is evident from APC’s position as made public by the AGF that the safety of Nigerian citizens would take a back sit in the next few days, while the argument over who is right or wrong unfortunately takes the front seat,” he added.
He, therefore, called on President Buhari to rise above the legalese and political fray to show leadership in order to rally the Nigerian people and their parliament to find lasting solutions to the growing insecurity in the country.
Similarly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party last Thursday said the back and front of Buhari on such a critical issue is an indication the President did not know what to do and what to say.
Briefing journalists in Abuja on Thursday after Mr Buhari failed to show up at the National Assembly, PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, said the development underscores its position that the president leads a broken government.
The opposition party also said disregard to the nation’s parliament is a disregard to the Nigeria people.
The party also mocked the ruling APC over the dire security situation, noting that the APC had branded itself with military credentials in 2015, projecting Mr Buhari as a military general with experience to wipe out Boko Haram in 100 days.
“President Muhammadu Buhari who was scheduled to address the nation’s parliament today (Thursday) backed out after confirming to them he was coming.
“This back and front from the President on vital issue of security that is overwhelming our nation underscores our position as an opposition party that nobody is in-charge and that this is a broken government.
“Disregarding the nation’s parliament is disregarding Nigeria people because they are representatives of the people. The worrisome truth is that the President either does not know what is happening or does not know what to do; otherwise he should not be afraid to face the people.
“The hard fact facing all of us now is that this regime has woefully failed Nigerians in all ramifications.
“It’s a shame that a government that came to power brandishing its military credential as a General with the propaganda to wipe away Boko Haram in 100 days is there five years plus presiding over the worst security situation in our history with no clear direction on what to do and even afraid to face the country’s parliament to explain what he is doing.”
Though presidency last Friday in a statement through Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ‘parliamentary processes’ many view the back and front of Mr President on National Assembly invitation as unpresidential and gross miscalculation with the potential to consume the All Progressives Congress (APC) come 2023.