The Senate on Thursday opposed President Muhammadu Buhari’s deployment of troops to The Gambia without the approval of the National Assembly.
The Nigerian Air Force confirmed on Wednesday that it had deployed 200 soldiers, fighter jets and other equipments to Senegal for an eventual mission in Gambia.
The Nigerian soldiers will join their Senegalese counterparts and others from West Africa to force President Yahya Jammeh out of power after he refused to leave office by the constitutionally allowed January 18. The President-elect Adama Barrow was scheduled to be sworn in on Thursday, but Mr. Jammeh has refused to leave office.
Mr. Barrow has said he may be inaugurated in neighbouring Senegal.
Speaking during the Senate plenary in Abuja, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu), who raised a point of order, said that President Buhari violated the constitution by deploying troops to Gambia without the 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.
Mr. Ekweremadu said that though it was happening in the Gambia, the Executive needed the approval of the Senate.
“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.”
The debate ended with Senate President Saraki saying the president still has a seven days window to notify the Senate of the troops deployment to Gambia.