160 Senators, Reps give Yar'Adua Thursday deadline

VANGUARD Newspaper- Emmanuel Aziken and Luka Binniyat

Abuja — AHEAD of the meeting between the Governors Forum and senators this morning, 160 senators and members of the House of Representatives have signified intention to compel President Umaru Yar'Adua to either send a letter notifying him of his medical vacation or face impeachment.

The legislators have given up till Thursday for President Yar'Adua to act accordingly.

For impeachment proceedings to commence, at least one third of members should endorse, according to section 143 of the constitution.

This implies that the 160 signatures collected is slightly more than the required 156 for a parliament made up of 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives. The notice of impeachment is to cite the President's abandonment of his duty post and his failure to respond to a Senate's resolution seeking compliance with section 145 of the constitution that required him to transmit a letter to the National Assembly on his medical vacation as gross misconduct.

The resolution unanimously adopted by the Senate, penultimate Wednesday, is yet to be acknowledged by the Presidency. Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji told Vanguard yesterday that he was not aware of any letter from the President as expected from the Senate.

The Senate leadership was, last night, rallying to defer the motion at a meeting where a separate motion urging the President to transmit a letter of his medical vacation was being prepared.

Vanguard learnt that the effort of the Senate leadership led by Senator David Mark was being played down by NIG Senators who were reiterating their determination to push ahead with their moves against the President.

Afolabi Sotunde/IAEA
From Left: Former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Former Speaker Aminu Bello Masari, Chief Ayo Opadokun and Pastor Bakare during meeting of Eminent Nigeria on the absence of the President Umaru Muas Yar'Adua for over 78 days in Abuja. Photo b y Gbemiga Olamikan.

The notice of impeachment, Vanguard learnt, is to be hinged on the President's violation of his oath of office as contained in the seventh schedule of the constitution.

A National Assembly source involved in the coordinated move between the Senate and the House said: "It is a gross violation of the constitution because the President has left the country for more than 77 days now without adhering to the letters of the constitution. If after 14 days, which is by Wednesday, we don't get any response to our resolution, we will serve the notice of impeachment of the President to the chairman of the National Assembly."

Govs woo NASS to support Abutu's ruling

Meantime, a delegation of the Governors' Forum, despite the latest move by the lawmakers, will today attempt to rally the support of senators to pass a motion in support of the ruling of Justice Dan Abutu of Abuja High Court that says Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan can perform the functions of President Umaru Yar'Adua in his absence but as the Vice President.

Vanguard learnt that Senate President David Mark was said to have backed away from a separate meeting with the governors on the excuse that he will have to carry all senators along on the issue.

Rowdy session expected in the House

Also yesterday, members of the House of Representatives who want President Umaru Yar'Adua to formally write the National Assembly on his protracted sick leave, regrouped to, once more, slug out it with those against their stand during today's plenary session.

This is as clear signs emerged, yesterday, that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole and his powerful pro-Yar'Adua group in the Reps are buckling under pressure to take what is regarded as the "popular" stand.

Section 145 of the constitution of the Nigeria stipulates that once the President transmits to the National Assembly in writing his intention to vacate on leave, his deputy automatically assumes the executive functions of the President. But, 78 days after President Yar'Adua left to treat his ailing health and sundry complications arising thereof, communication between him and the National Assembly has ceased.

While, the Senate had passed a resolution two weeks ago that the President should respect section 145 of the constitution, the House of Reps stamped its foot that the letter was unnecessary, since a High Court ruling last month said Vice President Jonathan Goodluck was already in acting capacity.

However, last Wednesday's plenary session revealed that the House was bitterly split on the issue. Tempers flayed and members took on each other as they tried to argue against each other when a motion was raised on the matter.

The Speaker, promptly brought down his gavel after a voice count, which was considered rigged in favour of the pro-Yar'Adua group.

The Speaker, who is not known for coming to office early, arrived at work yesterday before 9.00a.m and went into a meting with some of his "henchmen." Vanguard also gathered that Bankole had series of meetings with other floor members for several hours, ostensibly to sound out their views.

But, the group jostling for a letter from Yar'Adua, led by Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, also locked up itself in a protracted meeting. The group is now believed to have more than 250 members.

Feelers have it that, the group was making plans for a more serious motion, which would include the removal of President Yar'Adua from power on account of what the group believes are breaches of certain laws.

Poor implementation of budget

According to a source privy to what transpired at the Gbajamiala camp's meeting, the group would argue that the President was in contravention of Paragraph 070316, chapter 7 of the Public Service Rules 2006.

The section states:"Where an officer has been absent from duty on the grounds of ill-health for an aggregate period in excess of 42 calendar days within 12 calendar months, the officer should be made to appear before a medical board with a view to being ascertained whether he or she should be invalidated from service."

A cross section of participants during a meeting by political and pressure groups on the state of the nation at Kpaduma Hills, Asokoro, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

The Reps would also look at the consistent poor implementation of the 2007, 2008, 2009 Appropriation Acts, which, when violated by say, lack of full implementation, is an offence that can lead to the removal of the President.

The leadership of the Reps was looking more and more isolated, with the call, last Thursday by the Governors Forum calling on President Yar'Adua to follow the provision of section 145 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This was coming a day the Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, called on her boss to do the same.

With these adding to the voices of many respectable Nigerians and that of the European Union, Britain and the United States, groups in opposition to Bankole's stand would have more moral backing to place the issue once more for debate.

Pressed on the readiness of the House of Representatives which has so far backed off from pressing the issue of the President's absence on its agenda, the source expressed optimism of a gradual progress to woo members of the House to its side.

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A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "Yes it is true we have had problems in the House of Representatives but we are making progress and today we have more than 160 signatories in support of the impeachment."

The group of NIG Senators who had in the past backed away from throwing the impeachment card was, last night, meeting to further articulate their position.

Vanguard learnt that a select number of lawyers among the NIG Senators was mandated to strategize on options available to the group ahead of yesterday evening's meeting.

Their meeting was against the background of a similar meeting by the Senate leadership where a motion to articulate a soft landing for the President was said to be under consideration.

The motion to be presented by a member of the Senate leadership is to cite the President's interview with the BBC last January. The motion is to ask the President to handover to his deputy.


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