Politics

Saraki, Ekweremadu, Utazi clash over Buhari sending troops to The Gambia

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Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and chairman, Senate committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, on Thursday, clashed over the deployment of Nigerian troops to Senegal, en route The Gambia.

The clash started when Senator Utazi, relying on Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules and Section 5(4), of the 1999 Constitution as amended, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari erred by deploying troops outside the country without securing any permission from the Senate.

Utazi said: “ECOWAS countries have been discussing the political crisis in The Gambia. But to ask that this country will go on a warfare in another country without a recourse to the constitutional provision is an affront of the 1999 constitution. It is a breach of the constitution and we have failed. Let it be on record that the National Assembly has to be informed properly in writing.”

The Section 5(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended quoted by Senator Utazi reads: “The President shall not declare a state of war between the Federation and another country except with the sanction of a resolution of both Houses of the National Assembly sitting in a joint session

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“Except with the prior approval of the Senate, no member of the armed forces of the Federation shall be deployed on combat duty outside Nigeria.”

Saraki, while responding, faulted Utazi’s claims and argued that President Buhari was still acting within the confines of the law. He said President Buhari can deploy troops, as long as the operation does not exceed seven days.

Quoting Section 5(5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Saraki maintained that until the expiration of seven days, no one can fault the action of the President.

Saraki argued: “The point made is noted, but the explanation concerning the constitution is confusing. I believe the constitution gives room for the president, within seven days for such an action to come before us.”

Section 5(5) quoted by Saraki reads: “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (4) of this section, the President, in consultation with the National Defence Council, may deploy members of the armed forces of the Federation on a limited combat duty outside Nigeria if he is satisfied that the national security is under imminent threat or danger. Provided that the President shall within seven days of actual combat engagement, seek the consent of the Senate and the Senate shall thereafter give or refuse the said consent within fourteen days.‎”

Saraki was countered by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ekweremadu. He warned that as parliamentarians, it is wrong to subject the Senate to ridicule, adding that setting a bad precedence will hurt them in the future.

Also relying on Section 5(4)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Ekweremadu said the President cannot deploy troops outside the country without any prior approval from the National Assembly.

Section 5(4)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended reads: “Except with the prior approval of the Senate, no member of the armed forces of the Federation shall be deployed on combat duty outside Nigeria.”

According to the deputy senate president, “This has nothing to do with war and we are not at war with anybody, but for you to send the Nigerian armed forces outside Nigeria, this Senate must be told. But it is happening in The Gambia. They need the approval of the Senate because that is not war.

“War comes in when you are talking about section 5 of the constitution and the president does not need our approval. He can go to war on our behalf and come back later. But for you to deploy them to The Gambia, you must seek the approval of the Senate,” Ekweremadu added.

No official position was taken by the Senate on the issue. Saraki did not allow other lawmakers to contribute to the debate. He did not rule either on the issue, but moved ahead to accommodate other businesses of the day.
By Ehisuan Odia…

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