Abubakar Malami, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, attorney general of the Federation and minister of justice, Wednesday in Abuja, stated that the National Assembly lacks the constitutional power to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to explain security matters as requested by the House of Representatives last week.
The House of Representatives had last week, irked by the killing of 43 rice farmers in Zabarmari village, Jere local government area of Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents, passed a resolution inviting the President to address the National Assembly on the security situation in the country.
The President was to address a joint session of the NASS on Thursday, December 10, but it appears the Presidency is desperate to avoid that happening.
Lauretta Onochie, personal Assistant to the President on Social Media, had confirmed in a message on her Twitter handle, @Laurestar, she posted on Monday: “President @MBuhari will address a joint session of the National Assembly (@nassnigeria) on Thursday, December 10, 2020.”
But All Progressives Congress, APC, governors met with APC caucus in the NASS Tuesday night, lobbying the lawmakers to abort the appointment. They are said to be afraid that if successful, it would make the state legislators demand similar accountability from governors. They also claimed they have a ‘security report’ that Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, legislators were planning to embarrass the President in the House. The National Executive Council, NEC, of APC had at a meeting earlier in Abuja advised the President not to honour the invitation.
At its sitting on Wednesday, the House of Representatives quietly avoided an item on its order paper to admit Mr. President into the House chamber. This would have prepared the way for the President’s visit on Thursday. This supports the suspicion that the lawmakers have been bullied to back down on the invitation.
Malami, Wednesday afternoon, added his legal authority to back the party’s decision. According to him, Buhari has handled the security situation effectively since 2015 and should keep his strategies to himself.
“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 expose.”
He maintained that “National security is not about publicity and the nation’s security architecture cannot be exposed for the sake of getting publicity. 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.”
The AGF affirmed, “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. 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 Representatives operated outside constitutional bounds. President’s exclusivity of constitutional confidentiality investiture within the context of the constitution remains sacrosanct.”
The magazine gathered that the Presidency felt it was a disgrace and equivalent to vote of no confidence for Buhari to honour the invitation. They therefore stirred up the party machinery and bullied the lawmakers to submission under the threat of party supremacy.
Be that as it may, does the National Assembly have the power to invite the President? The answer is yes.
Section 88 of the 1999 constitution provides: “The National Assembly shall have power by resolution to direct or cause to be directed investigation into any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws and the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged or intended to be charged with the duty of or responsibility for executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly.”
The National Assembly can also “issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person, who after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House of the committee in question… “a summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or any person authorized in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
However, the President has immunity and cannot be compelled to honour an invitation. But the NASS can impeach him for the reasons of his invitation.