* Service chiefs brief Buhari
The Senate on Thursday opposed President Muhammadu Buhari’s deployment of Troops to The Gambia without approval of the National Assembly.
The Federal Government had deployed Troops to Gambia, if President Yahya Jammeh refused to leave office and handover to President-elect, Adama Barrow by January 19.
Speaking during plenary, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu), who raised a point of rrder said that President Buhari violated the constitution by deploying troops to Gambia without approval of the National Assembly.
“Section 5 of the constitution stipulates “subject to the provisions of this constitution, the executive powers of the federation shall be vested in Mr President.
“Section 4 notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, 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.
He said 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.”
However, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, while responding said “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.’’
Contributing, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said “the operational one as it affects us here is the (b) which says 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’’.
“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.
Ekweremadu said that though it was happening in the Gambia, they needed the approval of the Senate because that was not war.
He explained that a war situation was when you are talking about Section 5 and the president does not need our approval.
“He 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.’’
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said Nigeria deployed military personnel to The Gambia as part of ECOWAS Standby Force to protect the people and maintain sub-regional peace and security.
The minister gave the explanation in a statement signed on his behalf by Brig.-Gen. Muhammed Ahmed in Abuja on Thursday.
“The ECOWAS unanimously decided to deploy its Standby Force in the Gambia with the Nigeria’s military participation.
“The aim is to implement the decision of ECOWAS leaders in upholding the result of the presidential election held in The Gambia on Dec. 1, 2016”, Dan-Ali said.
He recalled that ECOWAS leaders, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, made spirited efforts to resolve the impasse amicably but all diplomatic efforts by the ECOWAS and other world leaders were rebuffed by outgoing President Yahya Jammeh.
“Accordingly, military deployed its assets as part of ECOWAS standby force to protect the people of the Gambia and maintain sub regional peace and security.
“Additionally, it will also protect and sustain the democratic norms in the sub-region. This will also forestall the breakdown of law and order in the Gambia and the sub-region in general”, the minister said.
In a related development,President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, met behind closed doors with service chiefs, before his departure to London on a 10-day vacation.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, said the service chiefs updated the President on the country’s military operations at home and abroad.
He stated that they specifically briefed him on the involvement of Nigerian troops in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Standby Force for the Gambian crisis.
“The meeting was to give Mr President an update on our operations within and outside the country especially our involvement in the ECOWAS Standby Force that is being inducted into Senegal so that the mandate of Gambia’s President-Elect is respected and sworn in.’’
Olonishakin said that the operational mandate of the Nigerian Army in the ECOWAS Standby Force was in line with the decision of the Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS with regard to the mandate of Gambia’s President-elect, Adama Barrow.
He assured that the Nigerian Army would ensure that the decision of the people of the Gambia was respected.
Answering a question about his vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari said there was nothing new about it.
The President, who was about boarding the presidential jet en route London, reminded the journalists that at about the same time in 2016, he had gone on holiday.
“What’s wrong with going on vacation? Didn’t I go last year at the same time?’’
Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, also told the correspondents that the Buhari was going to rest.
“You know that God did work of creation for six days and on the seventh day he rested. So if God needed to rest how much more human being.
“So the president is just going to rest and the statement we have released is straight forward. He will go on this leave and during the leave he will do routine medical checkups.
“We need to show good will towards our leaders particularly President Muhammadu Buhari who is working to give Nigeria a new footing, a new orientation.
“Nothing absolutely to worry about but a lot of good will, a lot of prayers are necessary at all times.’’