The National Assembly has finally declined to accede to President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to approve the sum of $496 million for the procurement of Super Tucano aircfraft from the United States Government.
Buhari, via a letter dated 13th April, 2018 and sent to the Senate and House of Representatives, confirmed giving anticipatory approval for the payment of $496 million out of the $1 billion to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account.
Prior to the transmission of the letter to the National Assembly, the sum of $496 million had been paid into the US Treasury, a development which most Nigerian lawmakers across party lines frowned at.
Worried by the development, the lawmakers who accused the President of usurping the powers of the National Assembly, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), threatened to initiate moves for Buhari’s impeachment.
Most of the lawmakers from the House of Representatives also faulted the communication procedure adopted by the Presidency.
To this end, the leadership of the House mandated its Committee on Rules and Business to ascertain whether there was a precedence for such arbitrary approval in other climes.
In response to BusinessDay inquiry, Timothy Golu, chairman, House Committee on Budget and Research, explained that the issue of Tucano Jets was not part of the deliberations of the House during the consideration of the N9.120 trillion budget which was approved.
Golu also noted that the proviso in the Appropriation Bill stipulates that any request for such approval should come by way of Supplementary Budget, signaling the rejection of the President’s request.
On his part, Abdulrasak Namdas, chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, maintained that the request was dead on arrival, as the Parliament was opposed to any form of impunity.
Buhari had in the letter titled: ‘Supplementary input to the 2018 Appropriation bill: Purchase of Super Tucano Aircfraft from the United States Government,’ disclosed that the sum of $1 billion was approved by the state governors at the Federal Economic Council on 14th December, 2017 where a resolution was passed.
“With the Council approving that up to $1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation. Subsequent upon this approval, we are preparing a comprehensive schedule of all the requirements for each of the security services for presentation to the National Assembly for consideration.
He explained that Nigeria had been in discussions with the US government for a number of years for the purchase of the Super Tucano Aircraft under a direct government-to-government arrangement, adding that the US Government recently granted the approval with a deadline within which part payment must be made, otherwise the contract would elapse.
“In expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised Aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of $496,374,470. This was paid directly to the Treasury of the United States Government.
“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of $496,374,470 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation bill, which the National Assembly is currently finalising.
“The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from different security services, and will be presented in the form of a supplementary Appropriation bill, in due course,” Bihari said in the two-page letter.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja