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Reps vs Buhari: Senate distances itself from invitation to President

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The Senate on Wednesday distanced itself from the invitation extended by the House of Representatives to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Green Chamber had invited the President to address it on the rising spate of insecurity in the land.

Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, said it is unconstitutional and an aberration for any arm of the National Assembly to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it, The Nation reports.

The upper chamber, through the Chairman of its Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru (Osun Central), told reporters in Abuja that the Senate has nothing to do with the invitation of the President by the House.

He said that since the Senate did not summon the President, it would not want to be dragged into any controversy as to whether the President will appear before a joint session of the National Assembly or not.

Basiru said: “I’m a spokesperson of the Senate. There was no resolution of the Senate that the President should come and address it on the issue of national security.

“I expect that every enquiry as to the summoning and coming of the President should be directed to the House of Representatives.

“We operate a bi-camera legislature. That’s why our rules and procedures are different and that is why also we need concurrence from the two Houses on passing of legislation.

“On this matter, there has not been an issue of a joint resolution. What you have is resolution of the House of Representatives.

“And I believe, the House of Representatives should be able to tell you why the resolution was passed, and what will happen to that resolution.

“As far as the Senate is concerned, we have not summoned the President and we don’t want to get ourselves involved in any controversy as to whether the president will appear or not.

“To the best of my knowledge I’m not aware of any planned joint session of the National Assembly tomorrow (today).”

On the statement of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, that the National Assembly lacks powers to summon the President, Basiru said: “I’m a legal practitioner, I have not read what Malami said. When I read it, if it affects the Senate, I will make response. I can’t be responding to hearsay.

“Secondly, there has not been any communication as to the National Assembly expecting the President as far as the Senate is concerned.

“Our resolution still remain that the President should hear the voice of the Senate that the Service chiefs should be examined (and) dropped so that we can have a re-energised security architecture in the country.”

On his part, Omo-Agege insisted that the framers of the Constitution did not envisage a situation where one branch of National Assembly would summon the head of another arm of government to appear before it.

The deputy senate president, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, made these assertions while answering questions from reporters after a meeting of its Committee at the National Assembly, Abuja.

He said he cannot be supportive of the President honouring such an invitation.

Omo-Agege said: “I am a constitutionalist. I believe that we are operating a presidential system of government. I believe in the concept of the separation of power. We have three equal arms of government.

“The framers of our constitution did not envisage that one branch of an arm of government will be summoning the head of another co-equal arm of government to come and offer explanation on the floor.

“I think those of you who are familiar with the constitutional process, I don’t think you’ve ever heard that the US parliament had ever invited their president to appear before the House of Representatives or the United States (U.S.) Senate, unless for the purpose of budget or to give an address on the state of the nation.

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“In any event, we also have the concept of executive privilege. The executive arm of government has the power to claim executive privilege at any time any of such invitation is extended.

“It is not envisaged by the framers of the Constitution that a day will come where the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who heads the executive arm, would be asked to come and testify in the House of Representatives or the Senate. I do not also support that. I don’t believe that the President should come.”