Who is afraid of Executive Order 6?


A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights lawyer Femi Falana had, during a workshop on Assets Forfeiture, organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACAC) asked the executive to withdraw the ‘Controversial’ executive Order 6 on the ground that it violates constitutional right to own property.
Has President Muhammadu Buhari truly usurped the lawmaking function of the National Assembly, KEHINDE OSASONA asks?
Overview Recently, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had while defending the constitutionality of the Executive Order, advice those opposed to the executive order to go to court, saying that the Order which has been signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, remains the Administration’s most potent weapon against corruption.
Order 6, Blueprint Weekend recalls, seeks to restrain owners of assets under investigation from carrying out any further transaction on such assets.
The President, on July 5, 2018, signed the Executive Order which seeks to prevent any government official from engaging in corrupt practices such as misappropriation of state assets for personal gain, receive any form of bribe or engages in corrupt practices related to the performance of his/her duties.
According to the Minister, the Executive Order No.
6 of 2018 aims to, restrict dealings in suspicious assets subject to investigation or inquiry bordering on corruption in order to preserve such assets from dissipation, and to deprive alleged criminals of the proceeds of their illicit activities which can otherwise be employed to allure, pervert and/or intimidate the investigative and judicial processes.
He said: “The truth is that, having realised the potency of the Order in giving muscle to the fight against corruption, which by the way is one of the three cardinal programmes of our Administration, the corrupt and their cohorts have become jittery.
They have every reason to be.
Henceforth, it won’t be business as usual.
”For those who claim that the Executive Order Number 6 is dictatorial, it is clear they have not even read Section.
3 (i) of the Order which states that any Person who alleges that his rights have been violated, are being or are likely to be contravened by any of the provision of this Executive Order may apply to a competent Court in his jurisdiction for redress.” President explains Meanwhile, in the wakes of diverse reactions generated across the nation by the Executive Order 6 in question, President Buhari while justifying the signing has come out to explain that in carrying out his duty, he relied on Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which empowers the President to execute and maintain the provisions of the Constitution, as well as all laws made by the National Assembly.
Buhari stated that contrary to the view of a section of the public, the signing is not directed at any specific assets at this time, rather it stated that the Order will give the President the power to freeze any asset of anyone who is being tried or interrogated or suspected of corruption of any fund illicitly acquired pending the decision of a court of law, or pending the inability of the person to establish ownership.
Clarifying further, he said: “Such assets will not be seized permanently.
Rather, it is a temporary forfeiture pending the final outcome of the judicial procedures.” Earlier, President Buhari had, during the 2018 National Assembly Open Week, reiterated his resolve to radically root out corruption from the country and solicited for partnership with the legislature and judiciary.
Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Buhari said: “There is indeed nothing to celebrate about corruption and nothing to commend about those who are corrupt.
“Glorious days of our dear country have been rolled back due to corruption.
Let us, therefore, collectively stand to ensure that corruption does not deny us the bright future ahead,” he explains.
“It is my expectation that this open week will facilitate deeper reflection on issues that I have raised and others I have not mentioned in order to achieve a more harmonious working relationship between the Executive and the Legislature to deliver peace, security and sustainable development to all Nigerians.” Also, the President has equally mandated the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to publish from time to time, a list of all assets protected pursuant to the Order among other provisions in the proclamation.
Senate counters But most critics of the Order unanimously agree that it is unconstitutional, arguing that the Order has no force of law.
Reacting, the Senate President Bukola Saraki said for collaboration to be effective between the three arms of government, “we must strive to adhere to certain fundamental principles.” He said that the principles must include accountability, which implies adhering to the constitutionally defined powers and responsibilities.
Arguing further, he said: “It is important that we conduct the affairs of government in a transparent manner and ensure that all political representatives are truly accountable to the electorate at all times.
We must recognise the complementary nature of our responsibilities and thus act cooperatively towards each other and render mutual support.” Reps toe same path Expectedly, members of the House of Representatives had in a recent motion passed call for Suspension of Buhari’s Executive Order 6 In a motion co-sponsored by the chairman of House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon.
Ossai Nicholas Ossai, and 25 others titled “Urgent need to investigate the constitutional compliance of all subsidiary legislations and executive arm of government.” The lawmakers hinged their rejection on the fact that the Order is targeted to hijack judicial powers and usurp legislative functions.
The commotion that follows necessitated lawmakers in support of the Executive Order to stage a walk out after Speaker Yakubu Dogara put the debate to voice vote and it was decided that the President should stay action on the order.
Before taking the decision, all the lawmakers who supported the motion declared that the Executive Order No 6 was unconstitutional.
They argued that even though they were not against the fight against corruption, knowing full well that it has adversely affected the nation and given her a tainted image in the comity of nations, they resolved that it, however, be fought in line with the provisions of the law.
Some even contended that it was synonymous with the dreaded Decree 4 of 1984, which coincidentally was also enacted by the military regime of then Maj.-Gen.
Muhammadu Buhari.
Consequently, the speaker ruled in favour of the ayes, as against opposition from the protesting lawmakers who opposed the motion.
The House thereafter resolved to invite the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Malam Abubakar Malami, and chairman of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission to appear before it with a comprehensive list of all subsidiary legislations in Nigeria published in the federal gazette.
It then agreed to constitute an ad hoc committee to scrutinise and investigate all subsidiary legislations and executive orders in Nigeria.
PDP’s outburst The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the signing of Executive Order 6 as unconstitutional and a dangerous step towards a descent to fascism, arguing that the “Nigerian constitution does not confer such ‘fascist’ power on the President.” In a statement issued by the PDP’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the members said “President Buhari’s unilateral Executive Order is a travesty of justice and rule of law, as it vehemently seeks to hijack and usurp the powers of both the legislature and the courts and vest it on himself so that he can use same at will, as a political instrument, to haunt, traumatise, harass and victimise perceived political opponents,” The PDP also stressed that no legitimate latitude of interpretation placed on Sections 5 and 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution cited as justifications for this executive order, would be acceptable to Nigerians.
Experts react, proffer way forward Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome, has described the Executive Order no.
6 issued and signed by President Muhammadu Buhari as illegal, unconstitutional, undemocratic, and immoral.
He said by signing the executive order, President Buhari was usurping the powers of the National Assembly – the only arm of government charged with the statutory responsibility of making laws for the nation.
According to him, the Order, if allowed to sail would render the maxim that, “nothing is a crime that hasn’t been established,” inconsequential.
Relying on Section 36 (5) of the Constitution, the human rights activist argued that what President Buhari aimed to achieve by his action could provoke serious legal tussles, if not handled with decorum.
Consequent upon Ozhekhome’s warning, two lawyers, Mr.
Ikenga Ugochinyere, and Mr.
Kenneth Udeze, have filled a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja praying for an order nullifying the Executive Order 6 of 2018 which provides for the seizure of assets linked to ongoing criminal trials and investigations.
They also urged the court to restrain both President Muhammadu Buhari who issued the Executive Order 6 and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr.
Abubakar Malami (SAN), designated as the coordinator of its implementation, from enforcing it.

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