Last week, Nigerian Senators composed of lawmakers in opposition parties staged a walkout after the Nigerian Senate President, Ahmed Lawan refused to implement the resolutions of a 2-hour closed door meeting of Majority and Minority lawmakers.
The lawmakers who issued a 6-week ultimatum to the Nigerian President to address the security crisis in the country also threatened to begin impeachment proceedings against Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari if the president didn’t take immediate action to tackle the worsening security situation in the country.
State of play
Impeaching a sitting President in Nigeria is a difficult and time-consuming task. Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution provides a five-step process for a Nigerian President to be removed from office. This process would take between five to six months of the remaining nine months President Muhammadu Buhari has in office.
The five-step process
The first step of the impeachment process is for the opposition lawmakers to submit a notice of allegations against the president to the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan. This notice would detail the infractions committed by the president and at least one third of the members of the National Assembly attest to it with their signatures. This implies the notice of allegations needs the signatures of 155 of the 469 members of the National Assembly. They would then send the notice to President Muhammadu Buhari for a response, if any.
The second step is that within the 14 days in which they served the notice of allegations, the two houses (Senate House and House of Representatives) must pass a motion to investigate the allegations against the president. The motion would only pass if two-thirds of the majority sign. Implying that 73 senators of the House of Senate and 240 members of the House of Representatives must vote to support the investigation.
The third step authorizes the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to carry out an investigation within seven days of the motion of allegations. The CJN would also, at the instance of the Senate president, form a seven-man panel to investigate the issued allegations by the lawmakers. The individuals that make up the panel must be people of unquestionable integrity, and must not be affiliated to any legislative house, civil service or political party.
The fourth step is for the seven-man panel to give President Muhammadu Buhari an opportunity to prove his innocence personally or through his lawyers. The panel would then take three months to conclude the assignment and submit a detailed report to each of the houses.
The panel would proceed to the fifth step if they find the president guilty of the allegations issued against him. The two houses would again consider the report submitted by the panel within a 14-day period and pass a resolution to impeach the President. At least two-thirds of the house members must support this resolution. Meaning at least 73 senators of the Senate House and 240 members of the House of Representatives must vote to support the impeachment of the president. Then the president would stand impeached.