Nigeria’s Buhari Disputes Lawmakers’ Power to Summon Him

A last minute change of heart by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on answering an invitation by lawmakers triggered a constitutional dispute over the power of the country’s parliament to summon the head of state.

The president initially accepted an invitation to appear before the House of Representatives on Thursday to discuss widespread insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation. However, Buhari opted not to turn up following pressure from his political party and advice from his attorney general.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly requested the president’s presence at the start of the month after Boko Haram Islamist insurgents killed as many as 110 civilians in Borno state on Nov. 28, according to the United Nations. The group has waged a violent campaign since 2009 to impose its version of Islamic law on Nigeria that has left more than 30,000 dead, according to the government.

The day before Buhari’s expected appearance on Dec. 10, Abubakar Malami, his attorney general and justice minister, said the House of Representatives had exceeded its constitutional bounds. “The nation’s security architecture cannot be exposed for the sake of getting publicity,” he said in an emailed statement.

The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, which controls both chambers of parliament, is also opposed to the president respecting the request, Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu said by text message.

Malami’s argument is “completely inappropriate,” said Freedom Onuoha, a political science lecturer at the University of Nigeria in the southeastern town of Nsukka. The constitution “clearly empowers the National Assembly to summon any public officer to appear in person or provide evidence for any issue of national concern,” he said by phone on Dec. 10. “It did not exempt the president.”

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