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The payment of $496m to the United States government by the Federal Government for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano fighter jets generated argument for and against in the Senate and the House of Representatives, while some have call for the impeachment of President which was moved by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (Edo South) for the activation of Section 143 – on impeachment of the president.
However, the National Economic Council (NEC), the nation’s highest economic advisory body to which the governors belong and headed by the Vice President, endorsed the payment for the planes.
At the end of the meeting at Aso Villa yesterday, Jigawa State Governor Abubakar Badaru said it was important for Nigeria to quickly buy the military jets before the United States changed its mind.
He said: “We forget easily. If you recall, we have been battling with approval from America to buy these equipment since 2014. We were begging America to sell these equipment to us.
“We tried Dubai (United Arab Emirates), they could not allow us, we tried a factory in Brazil, we couldn’t get it. The Americans still could not sell to Nigeria.
“Then, luckily, President Donald Trump said it was okay to buy. So we had to quickly buy before they changed their mind.
“Because there is also deadline and this is a state to state transaction, no middleman, and we are all here concerned about security and they (lawmakers) are raising questions on way and manner you protect people. This is an emergency situation.”
Also defending the payment for the fighter jets during the debate at the Senate, Senator Abu Ibrahim said: “Mr. President took the action based on national interest; that is why he authorized this payment.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is the first time that money drawn from excess crude account is brought to the National Assembly for approval. Since they began to operate this account, I have never seen any expenditure that was brought here for approval.
“$17.7 billion was withdrawn by former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the excess crude account to pay the Paris Club and fund two projects without the National Assembly’s approval. Obasanjo left $943 billion in the excess crude account but former President Goodluck Jonathan frittered away the money with no recourse to the National Assembly. The Excess Crude account increased from $5.16 billion in 2005 to over $20 billion in 2008 and decreased to less than $4 billion by Jonathan in 2010. It never came to National Assembly for approval.
“$2 billion was used by the previous PDP administration to fight Boko Haram in 2014. Governor Godswill Akpabio was the one who moved the motion at the National Economic Council to get the money. $5 billion was taken for power generation when they were sourcing for Niger Delta Power Holding, the same process was not taken by Yar’ adua. It was later taken to the National Assembly and it was approved.
“This is a PDP conspiracy. I will like the PDP to tell us which of their governors has taken the money released from excess crude account to the state assembly for approval. If this is a PDP conspiracy to tarnish the image of Muhammadu Buhari, they will not be able to do it because we are coming out with figures.”
Ibrahim prayed the Senate to consider the matter dispassionately without political coloration.
He added: “The payment was government to government without pecuniary interest whatsoever. It was for the security of this country which all of us support. The request should not have come to us in the first instance because the governors approved it. Only 53 per cent of the money which goes to the Federal Government should come to us for approval because we do not legislate for states and local governments. The PDP has interest in it and wanted to be holier than thou in the way and manner they are going about it. But the same PDP has not sanctioned its governors who have not taken the excess crude account money to their state for approval.”
Senator Godswill Akpabio raised a Point of Order to cut Ibrahim short.
Akpabio said that he could not recall ever moving a motion to withdraw money from the excess crude account as alluded to by Ibrahim.
He said the Senate should discountenance the reference to him “because I did not even see Senator Abu Ibrahim in any of our meetings”.
Ibrahim took the floor again to say that he was totally against the impeachment motion “because it is politically motivated”.
He prayed the Senate to endeavor to work for the interest of the country.
The upper chamber resolved to refer the motion for impeachment to its Judiciary and Legal Matters Committee for advice and guide on whether to activate Section 143 of the Constitution which deals with procedures for impeachment of the President, as advised by Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters, Senator David Umaru, was asked to submit his report next Wednesday.
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