The Senate has condemned President Muhammadu Buhari for deploying Nigerian troops to the Gambia without first seeking and obtaining the approval of the National Assembly.
During Thursday’s plenary, one of the lawmakers, Chukwuka Utazi, raised a point of order, saying that the President’s action contravened the 1999 constitution as amended.
Utazi pointed out that Section 5 (4) of the constitution stipulates that “a President shall not declare a state of war between the Federation and another country except with the sanction of a resolution of both Houses of the National Assembly sitting in a joint session.
“Except with the prior approval of the Senate, no member of the armed forces of the federation shall be deployed on combat duty outside Nigeria.
The lawmaker noted that it was “an affront to the constitution to ask that this country will go on a warfare in another country.”
“And we have failed even when the Senate have been co-operating with the executive. But let it be on record that if anything of this nature happens in this country, that this National Assembly has to be informed properly in writing,” Utazi said.
But Senate President Bukola Saraki, responding to Utazi’s point of order, said that “notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection 4 of this Section, the president, in consultation with the National Defence Council, may deploy members of the armed forces of the federation on a limited combat duty outside Nigeria.
“This is if he is satisfied that the national security is under imminent threat or danger.
“Provided that the President shall within seven days of actual combat engagement, seek the consent of the Senate and the Senate shall thereafter give or refuse the said consent within 14 days.’’
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, however insisted that the section of the constitution which best applied to the current situation is the part that stated that “except with the prior approval of the Senate, no member of the armed forces of the federation shall be deployed on combat duty outside Nigeria.”
Ekweremadu maintained that “This has to do with war and we are not at war with anybody, but for you to send the Nigerian armed forces outside Nigeria, this Senate must be told.
“He (The President) can go to war on our behalf and come back later. But for you to deploy them to Gambia you must seek the approval of the Senate.”
After various arguments have been presented, the Senate President Saraki concluded by saying that the President still has seven days within which to inform the Senate of the deployment of troops to The Gambia.