House of Representatives

…as lawmakers call for suspension of Executive order
…summon Malami, Magaji

The House of Representatives became polarized on Wednesday at plenary when a motion to suspend Executive Order 006 on asset forfeiture signed by President Muhammadu Buhari came up for debate.

Signs of what to expect from proponents of the motion became apparent when Olabode Ayorinde (APC, Ondo) stood up to make his contribution and introduced himself as a member of reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC).

He was shouted down by a number of his colleagues, who took exception to that sort of introduction.

He however insisted that he has every right to belong to any political party of his choice.

Another member, Olarinoye Olayonu (APC, Kwara), who was also asked to second a motion for amendment took it further that members should be free to introduce themselves the best way they could to the applause of some of his colleagues.

However, when Speaker Yakubu Dogara put the question for the motion of urgent national importance moved by Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) and 26 others and gave it to the Ayes, the floor went into an frenzy.

Supporters of the motion were seen jubilation and hugging each other while the opponents continued shouting No, No.

When the Speaker banged the gavel and gave it to the Ayes, a number of lawmakers made their ways out of the chamber despite the fact that the business of the day as listed on the order paper had not started.

The motion was debated for more than one and half hour.

In its resolution, the House ueged President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend and discontinuance the application and implementation of Executive Order Number 006 of 2018.

According to the lawmakers, the Order which was on forfeiture of assets acquired through proceeds of crimes, was not only controversial in nature but conflicts with relevant provisions of the Law.

While an ad hoc committee is to be constituted to scrutinize and investigate all Subsidiary Legislations and Executive Orders in the country, the House has also summoned the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Idris Malami the Chairman of Nigerian law Reform Commission to appear before the it and submit a comprehensive list of all Subsidiary Legislations in Nigeria that are published in the Federal Gazette within two weeks.

Ossai, in his submission noted that the Executive Order Number 006 of 2018 signed into law by Mr. President on July 5, 2018, which inter alia empowers the Executive to restrict dealings in suspicious assets subjected to investigation or inquiring bordering on corruption appears to have hijacked and usurped legislative and judicial powers by the Executive.

According to him, Section 44 Sub-section 2(k) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) restricts the application of compulsory acquisition of moveable or immoveable property in any part of Nigeria except on the temporary takings of possession of property for the purpose of any examinatson, investigation or inquiry.

He however expressed concerns that “Section 315 Sub-section 2 of the 1999 Constitution is to the effect that appropriate authority may by order make such modificatuon on an existing law as it considers it necessary and in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

“We are cognizant of the fact that the National Assembly shall not enact any law that ousts or purports to oust the judicial power of a court of law.

“Executive Order Number 006 of 2018 is a clear usurpation of legislature and judicial powers, and a replication of subsisting legislations such as Section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act of 1983, Section 330 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 and certain provisions of Economic and Financial Crimes Commissmn Act.

“Section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act of 1983 specifically vests the Federal High Court with powers to direct or require, prohibit any disposition of property moveable or immovable where a prima facie case has been made out against a person.

“It is worrisome that the Executive Order Number 006 of 2018 is similar to the dreaded Decree Number 2 of 1984 that could be used as an instrument to hunt, traumatize, harass and victimize perceived political opponents”.

Supporters of the motion were unanimous in their argument that the Executive order was an erosion of the powers of the legislature and the judiciary while the opponents said the President has not breached any law in his efforts against corruption.

Speaking in support of the motion , Ayorinde likened the Executive order to absolute power that corrupts absolutely, saying, “We must rise consciously against this else there won’t be a democracy.

“If an accused is proven not guilty after 20 years of litigation for instance, then he might have been deprived of the usage of his property for 20 years.

“Instead, whatever can be done to fast track corruption trials can be done through law but to circumvent the rule of law and usurp the powers of the legislature and judiciary is not acceptable”.

Ofongo Daniel (PDP, Bayelsa) noted that lawmakers were not against anti-corruption fight of the government but that the Order breached section 1 of the Constitution, adding that it should be enough if the any anti-corruption matter is in court.

Dennis Agbo (PDP, Enugu) Said the Order was like a military decree, “This is an attempt to usurp the powers of the legislature and judiciary,” he added

Nuhu Danburam (APC, Kano) said President Buhari was wrongly advised by his aides on the Executive Order.

Citing Section 44 Rimamnde Shawulu (PDP, Taraba)said anything that will deprive the people of their property is against the Constitution, rather the government should protect the people, he added, “This Order is extra constitutional and it will not sit well with the people. It will only create the fears in the people”.

Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje (PDP, Abia) said the Order has been variously compared to the ones signed by President Donald Trump of the United States (US) but the US Executives Orders were grounded in US Constitution.

She said the same cannot be said of the latest Order by President Buhari.

Bassey Ewah (PDP, Cross Rivers) questioned the intentmemt of the Order saying that whatever it was, it must not infringe on the powers of the legislature and the laws of the land.

On his part, Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi) said the Order has a target of about 160 persons, who already have cases in court.

He however expressed concerns that the AGF was empowered by the Order to expand the list at his discretion that can be abused.

Speaking against the motion, Prof. Majeed Alabi (APC, Osun) said the motion was incompetent, hasty and premature.

Affirming his support for the Order, Alabi said President Buhari was constitutionally empowered, “What the President did was in order considering what is going on in this country. How the Order did usurped legislative power as contained in Section 6?” he demanded.

Sadiq Ibrahim (APC, Adamawa) went further to add that Chapter 5 of the laws of the Federation as passed by the National Assembly vested on the President the powers to carry out the duty he performed on the Order.

He pointed out that Section 26 (1) made it clear that seizure of assets be carried out through search, arrest or through a court of law.

Nnanna Igbokwe (PDP, Igbokwe ) told his colleagues that the intentmemt of any Executive Order is to elevate the law, while adding that Executive Order was backed by law.

Saying that the efforts devoted to kicking against the Order was not worth it, Igbokwe noted that Executive Orders are subsidiary laws that have been affirmed by the Courts

Among others, he cited the change of name of State Security Service (SSS) to Department if State Service (DSS) that was done through Executive Order, which the court affirmed.

“Though the Executive Order cannot be superior to the Act of Parliament but why not approach the court if we have an issue over this one rather than dissipate energy and waste quality legislative hours opposing it,” he added.

Muhammad Monguno (APC, Borno) said since the intentmemt of the Order was to eradicate corruption by preserving the assets of proceeds of crime, the President has not breached any known law.

When the Speaker put the motion to question and giving it to the Ayes, the floor erupted with the opponents of the motion shouting their disapproval and disappointment while the jubilant winners were seeing hugging each other.

Some of the aggrieved lawmakers made their ways out of the chamber.

The Speaker however wasted no time in mining for the next item on the order paper.

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