Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent admission that Nigeria has joined the 34-member Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Islamic terrorism, members of the National Assembly, including the Office of the Senate President, have disowned the move.
The members insist that President Buhari did not seek the approval of the National Assembly before the government made such a weighty international commitment in the name of the country.
The Office of the President of the Senate denied knowledge or endorsement of Nigeria’s membership of the Saudi-led coalition.
When we contacted the Office of the President of the Senate, the Special Adviser to the President of the Senate on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he had no knowledge of a presidential communication to his principal either privately or officially on Nigeria’s membership of the Saudi Arabia coalition against the Islamic terrorists.
He explained that if there had been such a correspondence from the presidency under “Letter from President Muhammadu Buhari,” it would have been read at the floor of the Senate before now.
Reacting to Nigeria’s membership of the Saudi-led anti-terror coalition, a member of the Senate, Senator Adeola Solomon Olamilekan (APC- Lagos West) said although Nigeria is already a member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), it still behoves on the President to seek approval from the National Assembly before engaging in such a treaty.
His words: “As I speak to you, the President has not sought the National Assembly’s permission and I know he would not engage in any such thing given the economic recession and paucity of funds in the national treasury. But for all I know, he has not sought the National Assembly’s approval to enter into such a coalition.
“It is not like the President has dragged Nigeria into membership of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. Nigeria is a member of Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and if the president is going to join any Islamic group to intervene or to bring Nigeria on board to fight terrorism, he still needs to seek approval from the National Assembly.”
The lawmaker, who doubles as the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, argued that though the president has the right to initiate any good partnership with other countries of the world, he still has to get the approval of the National Assembly in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Reacting to the issue, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Oghene Emma Egoh, representing Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State, denied any knowledge of the National Assembly’s approval of the purported membership of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against terrorism.
That although the idea of fighting the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency in the country is a welcome development, President Buhari still needs to follow the constitutional procedure for domesticating treaties in the country.
His words: “I know that all agreements entered into by Nigeria, by way of bilateral agreements, are to be domiciled in the National Assembly.”
Expressing confidence in President Buhari, he noted that he has no doubt in his mind that the President would not breach constitutional requirements for entering into membership of any nation through bilateral agreement.
“May be he will still present them before the National Assembly for approval. I only read about it in the national dailies and I believe that he will do so and when it comes to the National Assembly we will look at it,” the lawmaker added.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Munsurat Sunmonu (APC-Oyo Central), declined comments, saying that she should be given more time before speaking on the subject.
Meanwhile, further enquiries at the Secretariat of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs revealed that there has not been any such communication from the Presidency on the subject.
According to a top official of the Committee who pleaded anonymity, any such communication should first go to the office of the President of the Senate through which it would be directed to the committee from the floor of the Senate as has been the parliamentary procedure.
But taking a different tack, Senator Shehu Sani backed Buhari on Nigeria’s membership of the coalition. According to him, “A collective danger can only be addressed by a collective action.”
In related development, an expert in International Relations and a University of Abuja don has faulted the President’s decision to join forces with the Saudi-led Islamic coalition against terrorism within the framework of the Lake Chad Basin Coalition Against Boko Haram, which is made up of sovereign states.
Prof. Saleh Dauda faulted the government’s decision on joining the coalition. President had responded when asked how the coalition would work in Nigeria’s interest in an interview with Aljazeera that , “It would be within the framework of the Lake Chad basin coalition against Boko Haram which comprises Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin”.
The don in the department of International Relations at the University of Abuja wondered why the president would make such decision within the commission that comprises other countries.
According to him, each country in the commission is a sovereign nation.
“It is not good for the president to say that it would join the Saudi Arabia coalition within the framework of the Lake Chad basin coalition against Boko Haram which comprises of Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin because each country is a sovereign nation.
“It will be improper for the president to make this kind of decision on their behalf which may not be in their own interest,” he said.
He warned that the President should avoid any alliance that will cause domestic instability.
“Buhari should try as must as possible to avoid any alliance that will cause disunity in this country.”
“The foreign policy should be pursued the way it will not cause political instability in the country. Nigeria joining the Saudi Arabia Islamic coalition will cause domestic instability because Nigeria practices different religions,” he said.
“My problem is this Saudi Arabia which has expertise and military personnel; they must give details on how they will help Nigeria fight against Boko Haram,” he added.
It could be recalled that in December 2015, Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, according to a joint statement published on state news agency, SPA. Nigeria was named as a member of the Islamic alliance by the kingdom.
“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” the statement said.
A long list of Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, together with Islamic countries Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and Gulf Arab and African states were mentioned and Nigeria was one of the countries named.