Nigerian Lawmakers Draw Battle Line for Buhari as Vote LoomsBy
Constitution gives legislature powers to remove the president
Squabble is latest sign of unraveling of the ruling APC party
Nigerian lawmakers drew a battle line with President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of February elections by issuing a list of demands that must be met or they will take unspecified legislative measures against him.
Buhari is expected to end widespread insecurity and violence in the country, stop the “systematic harassment and humiliation” of political opponents and show sincerity in his anti-graft war by prosecuting indicted loyalists, among other demands, according to a 12-point resolution jointly issued late Tuesday by the two chambers of the legislature.
“The National Assembly will not hesitate to evoke its constitutional powers if nothing is done to address” the resolutions, the lawmakers said in their communique published on Senate President Bukola Saraki’s Facebook account. Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, didn’t immediately respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.
Relations between Nigeria’s legislature and executive have been strained, with Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who both emerged legislative leaders against Buhari’s wish, often going against the party line.
The lawmakers’ resolution came two days after the police linked Saraki with a robbery in his home state of Kwara in April that left 33 people dead and invited him for questioning. Saraki denied any involvement.
Buhari, who is seeking a second four-year tenure in elections due in February 2019, is contending with the unraveling of the coalition that formed the All Progressives Congress and brought him to power by defeating an incumbent in 2015 for the first time in the country’s history.
Saraki and Dogara were members of a faction of the former ruling People’s Democratic Party that joined other opposition groups to form the party.
The latest developments show “a fractured and personalized political party, which hasn’t been able to merge into one,” said Idayat Hassan, executive director of Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development. “Its political personalities are using their arms of government to fight their proxy wars as 2019 comes closer.”
The APC will hold its national convention on June 23 to elect new party leaders and endorse nominees to represent it in the coming elections.
Apart from Saraki, two other senators critical of Buhari have also been linked by police to criminal investigations, according to Lagos-based SBM Intelligence risk advisory. These are Dino Melaye, accused of supplying weapons to a robbery gang, and Shehu Sani, who was invited by police for questioning in connection with a murder investigation.
For now, Buhari’s opponents in the legislature don’t have enough support to impeach and remove him from office, but may be in a position to weaken him and his party going into the general elections, according to SBM Intelligence analyst, Cheta Nwanze.
“It is not far-fetched to envisage a mass exodus of senior and influential politicians away from the APC or backroom deals with powerful APC and PDP state governors in states that are not favorably disposed to President Buhari,” Nwanze said. “Such deals could harm his re-election chances.”