Buhari’s Executive Order On Asset Forfeiture Is Illegal!
By Inibehe Effiong
Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 signed by President Buhari will not and cannot stand the test of constitutionality. Section 44(1) of the Constitution is clear: only an Act of the National Assembly can deprive a person of his property in pursuance of criminal investigation and prosecution.
Garba Shehu stated that the Executive Order is not meant to forfeit properties of people but to “temporarily deny access to the properties…” This is a distinction without a difference. The whole essence of forfeiture is to deny access; either temporarily or permanently.
The current Attorney General of the Federation is possibly the worst in history. Buhari may be ignorant of the law but not the Attorney General. The President cannot usurp the judicial powers of the Court under Section 6 of the Constitution through Executive Order. It is illegal.
Presumption of innocence is a fundamental right guaranteed by Section 36(5) of the Constitution. This government keeps sending signals that it is populated by ignorant people who do not know what they are doing. It is rather sad the Vice President is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
What is the purport of the Executive Order?
There are provisions under the law on how to deny suspects access to suspicious properties: Sections 20-33 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 & Sections 43-49 of the ICPC Act, etc, makes ample provisions for this. Buhari is chasing shadows.
Two weeks ago, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the Federal Government from seizing funds in bank accounts not linked to BVN because due process was not followed. Obviously, this government has not learnt any lesson from that defeat. You cannot fight corruption outside the law.
This so-called fight against corruption will continue to suffer because this government does not know what it is doing. You are prosecuting Dasuki before a Judge, but you have refused to obey about 5 court orders admitting him to bail. The Judiciary is not a parastatal under President Buhari.
I am aware that the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2017 is still pending before the National Assembly. The government should be exerting more pressure on the parliament to pass it into law. Only the National Assembly can make laws. Executive Orders cannot substitute Acts of parliament.
Every Lawyer in Nigeria that is worth his salt should be conversant with the case of Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu (1986) 2 NWLR (PT 18) 621 where the Supreme Court set a precedent against impunity and stopped the military from taking Ojukwu’s property without due process.
I want us to know that no government lawyer will cite Buhari’s “integrity” in court as an authority upon which the court should base it’s decision and convict. This government is playing to the gallery and acting both naively and ignorantly.
Sentiments and Law are not identical.
By Inibehe Effiong