The recent Presidential Executive Order on preservation of suspicious assets signed on Thursday 5th July 2018 has been described by stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a big stick wielded against those who indulge in corrupt practices.
The said Executive Order is targeted at persons who have been accused of engaging in corrupt acts and have procured assets which constitutes proceeds of corruption.
While the perceived ‘body language’ of the President on the issue of corruption in Nigeria may be quite clear, he has however been variously accused of being one sided in this fight against corruption and this accusation seems to be well founded on the view that majority of those being prosecuted are drawn from the opposition.
The Presidential Executive Order as soon as it is signed by the President has a force of law. It is such shortcut employed by the Executive to make law without going through the process of legislation by the National Assembly.
The Presidential Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 as signed by the President though may be with positive intentions is clearly a violation of several constitutional provisions and an attempt to usurp the powers of the Judiciary by creating a shortcut to perceived justice.
Section 36(5) CFRN 1999 (as amended) is to the effect that a person accused of a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Executive Order if implemented automatically puts the cart before the horse as same gives authority to confiscate, seize and deprive a person the use of his asset without a valid order or conviction by a competent court.
Equally, the Executive Order runs foul of the provision of Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which provides for the right of a person to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. A person who is merely suspected to be in possession of an asset which might have been proceeds of corruption is automatically deprived his right to own and make use of his property immediately the Order is activated against him. Hence, his right is grieviously violated in the situation where he is found to be innocent of the allegations.
In essence, the Executive Order which is believed by many to be an instrument to continue to witch hunt and suppress the opposition, could only be a weapon in the hands of the ruling class.
Therefore, in my humble opinion, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having professed strict adherence to the rule of law and due process should follow same instead of implementing an Order which to my mind is absolutely unnecessary in view of the existence of the very many mechanisms already on ground. The anti corruption courts which have recently been set up by the Heads of Courts as directed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria is saddled with the responsibility to speedily try corruption cases, give interim orders and dispense justice within a reason time. Only a valid order of court should and could validly deprive a person of his right to make use of his property.
It is essential that the Government in power comes to the realization that Nigeria is not currently in the military era when the Government without due process can do and undo. This Executive Order as it stands is an affront to the authority of the judiciary and a clear violation of due process. I therefore advise that the Federal Executive should reconsider this Order in view of what it portends for democracy in Nigeria.
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