PHILIP NYAM reports on the controversy triggered by the resolution of the House of Representatives urging President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend implementation of Executive Order No. 6, which he recently issued
The fear of the ongoing anti-corruption war of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration seems to be the antidote that sends shivers down the spines of politically exposed persons.
President Buhari had a fortnight ago signed the Executive Order 6, which seeks to restrain owners of assets under investigation from carrying out any further transaction on such assets.
The Order empowers government to swoop on assets believed to have been corruptly acquired at home and abroad by top government officials directly and through their cronies or fronts in and outside government over the years.
Some of these people include former governors, ministers and even serving senators as well as other appointees of the past governments. The list also indicate that a total of 155 politically exposed persons, businessmen, top civil servants and private individuals and companies that were used to launder funds are also targets under the new order.
Incidentally, the executive order was received with mixed feelings by members of the House of Representatives.
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,” however ignited commotion, necessitating 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 they were not against the fight against corruption, but that if the hydra headed enemy, which has adversely affected the nation and given her a tainted image in the comity of nations must be tamed, it should 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 Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Consequently, the House resolved to invite the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mallam 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 also agreed to constitute an ad hoc committee to scrutinise and investigate all subsidiary legislations and executive orders in Nigeria.
The plenary was however dogged by protest, as lawmakers opposed to the motion vehemently kicked against the ruling of Speaker Dogara.
Of course, in a voice vote, the House Standing Rules and Orders have given the presiding officer the wherewithal to decide in his own opinion, so however they feel, the resolution stands.
But as soon as Dogara ruled, the pro-executive order lawmakers started shouting ‘no, no, no” and some of them walked out of the chambers to display their anger.
Dogara also had a tough time trying to rule on the motion as after the first and second vote, the voices of both ayes and nays appeared difficult to decipher as to which was in the majority.
But, the speaker ruled in favour of the ayes, sparking protests from those opposed to the motion; some of whom staged a walk out of the chambers.
While leading debate on the motion, lead sponsor, Hon. Ossai Ossai noted that the Executive Order No. 6 of 2018, signed into law by President Buhari on July 5, “appears to hijack and usurp legislative and judicial powers by the executive arm of government” as it empowers the executive to restrict dealings in suspicious assets subjected to investigation or inquiring bordering on corruption.
The lawmaker argued that section 44 (2) (k) of the 1999 Constitution 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 examination, investigation or inquiry.
According to him, executive powers shall extend to the execution and maintenance of the constitution and all laws made by the National Assembly.
He however maintained that the Executive Order No. 6 is a clear usurpation of legislative and judicial powers, and a replica of subsisting legislations such as section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act of 1983, section330 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 and certain provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
His words: “The Executive order 006 of 2018, is similar to the dreaded Decree 2 of 1984 that could be used as an instrument to hunt, traumatise, harass and victimize perceived political opponents.”
But, Hon. Ralph Igbokwe (APC, Imo) raised a constitutional point of order advising the sponsor to withdraw the motion and allow lawmakers to either individually or collectively seek interpretation of the constitutional and legal provisions in contention as regards the Executive Order. He was however ruled out of order by Speaker Dogara.
Supporting the motion, Hon. Bode Ayorinde argued that the signing of the order by the President was akin to combining both legislative and executive functions adding that the constitution did not envisage such a situation.
Similarly, Hon. Jerry Alagbaso (PDP, Imo) submitted that the order was not a matter to be debate based on party lines. “It is not an issue of APC or PDP, but we have to kill this Executive Order,” he said.
Others who supported the motion include Dan Asuquo, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, Nuhu Danburam, Samson Okwu, Bassey Ewah, Dennis Agbo, Rima Shawulu and Linus Okorie.
Opposing the motion, Hon. Mojeed Alabi (APC, Osun) argued that the Executive Order cannot be stopped by the House because it was based on the powers conferred on the President by the constitution.
Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim (APC, Adamawa) also opposed the motion arguing that the President derived the power to issue the order from three sources including the constitution and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act.
He said the President acted based on the provisions of the law enacted by the National Assembly.
Also kicking against the motion, Hon. Ralph Igbokwe (APC, Imo) argued that the President was right in issuing the Executive Order. He said there are many decided court cases classifying executive orders as legislations.
Hon. Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno) also submitted that by virtue of section 5 of the constitution, the president was empowered to issue executive orders for the maintenance of law and order and to regulate abuse of power, which he said “is also corruption.”
Since the resolution was passed, there has been no reaction from the presidency. Whether the President will accede to the demand from the House is yet to be seen, but it is clear that the lawmakers dread the Executive Order No. 6 and if it stands, the frosty relationship between the legislature and the executive may not abate till the end of the 8th National Assembly. (New Telegraph)