TENSION rose in the House of Representatives on Tuesday over President Muhammadu Buhari letter requesting National Assembly’s approval of $496,374,470 for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft from the United States government.
Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara had after an executive session read the President’s letter entitled, “Supplementary input to the 2018 appropriation bill: Purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft from the United States government.”
President Buhari in the letter dated April 13 also informed the lawmakers that, “In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialized Aircraft, which is critical to National Security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496,374,470.00 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335.00) 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 the different security services and will be presented in the form of a supplementary appropriation bill, in due course,” the President stated.
The President’s letter read: “I wish to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to the ongoing security emergencies in the county. These challenges were discussed with the State governors and subsequently, at the meeting of the National Economic Council on 14th December 2017, where a resolution was passed, with the council approving that up to US$1 billion may be released and utilized 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.
“It would be recalled that, for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the United States Government for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft under a direct government-to-government arrangement. Recently approval was finally granted by the United States Government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise, the contract would lapse.
“The Honourable Minister of Defence and other appropriate officers will be available to provide further details, as may be required”, the letter concluded.
However, most lawmakers from the opposition kicked against the request with, Hon. Kingsley Chinda saying that the action of the President amount to constitutional infractions.
The lawmaker who is the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, noted that to spend the money before sending a request to that effect to the National Assembly was an impeachable offence.
The House Deputy Minority Leader, Honourable Chukwuka Onyeama, Tajudeen Yusuf and Sunday Karimi also said that the action of the President was a breach of the constitution and there was a need to let him know.
The PDP lawmakers were particularly pained that the money was spent before they were briefed by the President.
The Deputy Chief Whip, Honourable Pally Iriase, however, caution that there was a need to temper justice with mercy, saying that, two wrongs do not make a right.
But, the Chairman, Rules and Business, Honourable Emmanuel Orker-Jev said that the debate was not necessary until after first reading.
It will be recalled that the House had last Tuesday resolved to investigate allegations of violation of due process against the executive in the award of contract for the importation of arms worth $460 million from the United States (US).
The House resolution had followed the adoption of a motion brought under Matters of Privilege by the chairman of the House Committee on Works, Hon. Toby Okechukwu.