The Executive Order On Suspicious Assets Is Unconstititional- Huriwa
One of the nation's foremost pro-democracy and civil Rights organisations- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OFNIGERIA (HURIWA) has described the recently signed executive order by President Muhammadu Buhari in which the perception or interpretation is being given that the executive arm has the power of law making, as unconstitutional.
Besides, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) gave indication that it may institute a case at the Federal High Court to seek the nullufucation of the illegal anx outrageously unconstititional executive order targeted at opposition political office seekers. In a media release endorsed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf the Rights group wrote as follows:
"Under the constitutional democracy in practice in Nigeria as clearly provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended, sections 4, 5 and 6 have clearly demarcated the constitutional powers of each arm of government with section 4 ceding the power of law making in the to the National Assembly and state Assemblies. Section 5 gives the President and the executive arm of government that he heads the power to implement policies and to exercise powers as specified in any legislation passed by the National Assembly and sign by him or if he withhold his assent the National Assembly can apply their power of veto to override the refusal of the executive head of government to sign the legislation and by the veto override the piece of legislation becomes a law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 6 gives the judicial powers of the federation on the Courts of competent jurisdiction.
With due respect, the President can not exercise the powers that is not donated to his office by the Constitution.
Secondly, the so called Executive Order is a total duplication of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's Act which is an Act of parliament which contains several provisions regarding temporary or permanent forfeiture and how the forfeited assets have to be administered transparently but the power to grant such temporary or permanent forfeiture belongs to the Courts of competent jurisdiction because that is the forum for the interpretation of the laws.
The Executive head of government will be committing outrageous illegality if he is allowed to just wake up and sign what he calls executive orders which purports to seize the powers already domiciled in the Constitution or other pieces of legislations that were properly passed.
The executive order is possibly a politically tainted move to crush opposition politicians, take over their assets over nebulous charges and make them financially impotent to confront the incumbent President in the next year's general election in which the incumbent plans to run.
Besides, the Constitution in section 36(5) clearly stated that a suspect or an accused person is totally innocent in the eyes of the law.
The executive order seeks to overrule this vital section of the Nigerian Constitution. The constitution is clear on what happens to any action of government that contradicts any relevant section of the Constitution.
The executive order on seizures of assets is null, void and of no moment.
I'm optimistic that Nigerians of good will will challenge this attempt to institutionalize dictatorship in the competent courts of law.
The Constitution recognises the rights of citizens to own moveable and immovable property in any oart of the Country.
The government of Muhammadu Buhari can not hide under the guise of declaration of state of emergency on corruption and deprive a citizen of his/her protected and guaranteed right.
Only the court has this kind of power and the accused must be guaranteed fair hearing.
The president is simply seeking to exercise tyrannical power to deprive his opponents of their assets to cripple their political activities.
The current administration has been very hypocritical with the fight against corruption.
President Muhammadu Buhari spent 103 days on medical tourism in London at public costs but abused the law on transparency and accountability by failing and refusing to declare the exact amount spent on his health from public treasury.
Even when the Freedom of information Act allows a citizen to know how our funds are spent but President Muhammadu Buhari forced the central bank Governor to refuse the application for release of information on how much of public fund was spent treating the current President.
Under the nose of the current President, Nigerian national Petroleum corporation gave out contracts to some ghost companies to the tune of $26 billion without complying with Public procurement Act and when the minister of state for petroleum complained about this monumental heist the President simply asked the NNPC GMD and the minister of state for petroleum to go and work together.
The President is the minister for petroleum but under the last three years several billions of dollars remained uncounted for to the extent that the governors of the 36 states of the Federation raised their voices to condemn this broad day light robbery.
Under the nose of the President An allegation of N500 million bribery made against his chief of staff that he extorted money from MTN was swept under the carpets.
Under the watch of the President $48 million was found in a flat in Ikoyi but till date no certainty on who owns the cash.
In the Nigerian Intelligence Agency over $250 million was diverted but till date the whereabouts of such huge funds are unknown and the Acting director general of NIA who raised the alarm as good whistleblower was physically harassed out of the place and I'm told he fled into the United States for his life.
Under the watch of this Prezident the minister of communication was accused by his media adviser of corrupt enrichment running into multimillion Naira including purchases of choice housing assets in Abuja and Ibadan and state of the art Printing press but because the minister is campaigning for the re-election of the President that alleged crime had been concealed.
The disgraced SGF and Buhari's friend embezzled nearly N500 million allegedly from North East reconstruction fund but he is not prosecuted. Under the President's nose a minister allegedly mismanaged N2 billion from the National broadcasting Commission for digitisation of broadcasting but till now both the minister of information and DG of NBC are walking the corridors of power free. The school feeding programme whereby over N500 bullion was budgeted and released is mirred in widespread corrupt practices.
The President should perish the thought of witch-hunting his political opponents and allow the anti graft bodies to work by operating without political interferences. He should rather appoint a good Nigerian who is independent minded and free from corruption to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The signing of this illegal executive order shows that the President has lost confidence on the EFCC leadership which had in any case received damaging reports from Department of state services which specifically indicted the Chairman of EFCC of a range of corrupt enrichment allegations. The EFCC'S acting Chairman has also failed confirmation hearing twice and so can't continue as head of that agency. Buhari has influenced EFCC to go after PDP regarding the Presidential campaign fund for 2015 but the APC which spent hugely to beat an incumbent is free from EFCC'S investigations. The Executive order is therefore DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The National Assembly must not allow the President take over their legislative powers and Nigerians who love democracy and constitutionalism must head to court to quash this manifest illegality of President Muhammadu Buhari.
We recall vividly that President Buhari signed what he termed the executive order on preservation of assets seized in connection with corruption and stated interalia that:
“Like I have said many times, if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will sooner-or later kill Nigeria,’’ President Buhari said while signing Executive Order No.6 to further strengthen institutions on curtailing and restricting illicit activities in the country. “It has thus become necessary to re-kit and re-tool our arsenal to be able to effectively tackle corruption’s perilous counter-attack against the Nigerian State. Accordingly, the Federal Government of Nigeria has declared a national emergency to deal with that crisis.
“In this regard, the Federal Government of Nigeria in line with its anti-corruption strategy seeks to ensure that justice is not defeated or compromised by persons involved in a case or complaint of corruption,’’ he said.
we can also recall that the President said the viability and continuous well-being of the nation faces enormous threat from corruption, pointing out that, “Whilst there are many reasons why Nigeria has been struggling; regrettably, the most unfortunate cause of great disparity between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is endemic corruption.’’
According to him.: “It is in consequence of this that I have decided to issue the Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 to inter alia 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.
“Or for acts of terrorism, financing of terrorism, kidnapping, sponsorship of ethnic or religious violence, economic sabotage and cases of economic and financial crimes, including acts contributing to the economic adversity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and against the overall interest of justice and the welfare of the Nigerian State,’’ .
We in the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) believe that the executive order is simply an exercise in futility because it's inherently unconstitutional and is a political gambit to cripple political opponents because of 2019 Election which is only few months away.
*Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; is the National coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).