FG Goes All Out On Cor­rup­tion

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Onyek­were (La­gos), Az­i­mazi Mo­moh Ji­moh, Brid­get Chiedu Onochie, Ter­hemba Daka and Se­gun Olaniyi, (Abuja)

• Travel Re­stric­tion Placed On More Than 50 High Pro­file Nige­ri­ans

• Their Fi­nan­cial Trans­ac­tions Un­der Watch

• Buhari Foist­ing Full-blown Fas­cism On Nige­ria- PDP

• Pres­i­dent So Des­per­ate To Re­main In Power, Act­ing Like A Dic­ta­tor- Fani-kay­ode

•Lawyers De­cry Ac­tion

• Ac­tion Prim­i­tive, Po­lit­i­cal Witch-hunt- HURIWA

THE Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, yes­ter­day, en­gaged turbo gear in the bid to drive out cor­rup­tion from the polity, with Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari man­dat­ing the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Abubakar Malami to im­ple­ment the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 6 (EO6) in full force.

The Pres­i­dency con­firmed that a num­ber of en­force­ment pro­ce­dures were al­ready in place by which the Nige­ria Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice, and other se­cu­rity agen­cies have placed no fewer than 50 high-pro­file per­sons di­rectly af­fected by EO6 on watch-list and re­stricted them from leav- ing the county, pend­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion of their cases.

Buhari’s man­date came fol­low­ing the in­stant ju­di­cial af­fir­ma­tion of the or­der’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity and le­gal­ity by Jus­tice Ijeoma Ojukwu, of the Abuja Divi­sion of Fed­eral High Court, last Wed­nes­day.

The rul­ing held that Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 6 was within the pow­ers of the Pres­i­dent, as granted by the Con­sti­tu­tion, to is­sue ex­ec­u­tive or­ders for the ex­e­cu­tion of poli­cies by the ex­ec­u­tive arm of gov­ern­ment, pro­vided such or­ders re­spect the prin­ci­ples of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers.

The judge noted that Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 6 did not vi­o­late the rights of cit­i­zens to own prop­erty, rather it was in­formed by Buhari’s will­ing­ness to save sus­pected prop­erty from be­ing dis­si­pated.

Jus­tice Ojukwu, how­ever, cau­tioned that the pow­ers given to the AGF un­der the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 6 must be ex­er­cised in ac­cor­dance with the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The judge held that al­though the Or­der seemed to give the AGF dis­cre­tion as to when to seek per­mis­sion of the court to seize any sus­pected prop­erty, it must at all times, ob­tain a court or­der be­fore seiz­ing any as­set. Such ap­pli­ca­tion, the court held, could be made ex-parte.

The Pres­i­dency, in a state­ment signed by Se­nior Spe­cial Ad­viser on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, Garba Shehu, yes­ter­day, said: “The fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions of th­ese per­sons of in­ter­est are be­ing mon­i­tored by rel­e­vant agen­cies to en­sure that as­sets are not dis­si­pated and such per­sons do not in­ter­fere with, nor how­so­ever cor­rupt in­ves­ti­ga­tion and lit­i­ga­tion pro­cesses.

“It is in­struc­tive to note that EO6 was specif­i­cally di­rected to rel­e­vant law en­force­ment agen­cies to en­sure that all as­sets within a mini- mum value of N50m or equiv­a­lent, sub­ject to in­ves­ti­ga­tion or lit­i­ga­tion are pro­tected from dis­si­pa­tion by em­ploy­ing all avail­able law­ful means, pend­ing fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion of any cor­rup­tion-re­lated mat­ter.

“The Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion re­as­sures all wellmean­ing and pa­tri­otic Nige­ri­ans of its com­mit­ment to the fight against cor­rup­tion, in ac­cor­dance with 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion (as amended) and the gen­eral prin­ci­ples of the Rule of Law.

“Ac­cord­ingly, this ad­min­is­tra­tion will up­hold the rule of law in all its ac­tions and the right of cit­i­zens would be pro­tected as guar­an­teed by the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“We, there­fore, en­join all Nige­ri­ans to co­op­er­ate with the law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties to­wards en­sur­ing a suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of EO6, which is a par­a­digm-chang­ing pol­icy of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in the fight against cor­rup­tion,” the state­ment stated.

How­ever, some con­sti­tu­tional lawyers, who spoke to The Guardian have cau­tioned that even though the Pres­i­dent has pow­ers to is­sue ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, such pow­ers should be sub­ject to the pro­vi­sions of the law of the land.

In re­view­ing the ex­tent to which the Pres­i­dent can ex­er­cise his power un­der Sec­tion 5 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, Mr. Don­ald Ibe­buike, in­sisted that the power of the Pres­i­dent to is­sue an Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der un­der Sec­tion 5 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion (as amended), is sub­ject to Sec­tion 4 of the same Con­sti­tu­tion, which gives the Na­tional As­sem­bly the pow­ers to make laws for the good gov- er­nance of Nige­ria. “To this end, the power of the Pres­i­dent to is­sue Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der is lim­ited to as­sist­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of any law made by the Na­tional As­sem­bly. See the un­re­ported case of Al­raine Ship­ping Agen­cies Ltd & Ors V Nige­rian Ship­pers’ Coun­cil & Anor for which judg­ment was de­liv­ered on June 21, 2017. “Hav­ing re­gard to the is­sue at hand, I can say that if the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der is aimed at im­ple­ment­ing an ex­ist­ing law that al­lows Nige­ri­ans to pay tax on their off­shore as­sets, then it is in or­der, but if oth­er­wise, I sug­gest for same to be chal­lenged in a court of law. “I think also that the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der needs to be viewed from the mis­chief it will cause. It may have the ef­fect of sub­ject­ing the own­ers of off­shore as­sets to mul­ti­ple tax­a­tion, given that the owner of such as­sets may have paid tax on any profit re­lat­ing to the as­sets to the host coun­try, es­pe­cially where the owner of the as­sets is a cor­po­rate per­son­al­ity.”

On the other hand, Ibe­buike be­lieves that the cor­po­rate per­son­al­ity may have fac­tored in the profit from such as­sets in declar­ing its Nige­rian prof­its, and has, to that ex­tent, paid any due tax to the coun­try. “I think from the lit­tle knowl­edge about the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der, it ap­pears to be im­pre­cise, fluid and may have im­ple­men­ta­tion chal­lenges,” he main­tained.

Abubakar Sani, a le­gal prac­ti­tioner holds a dif­fer­ent view on the limit to the pow­ers of Mr. Pres­i­dent to is­sue ex­ec­u­tive or­ders.

He also be­lieves that the new or­der, is part of the Pres­i­dent’s in­ter­ven­tion in fur­ther­ance of his ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers un­der Sec­tion 5 of the Con­sti­tu­tion read along with Sec­tion 10(2) of the In­ter­pre­ta­tion Act. “Pur­suant to those pow­ers, the Pres­i­dent can law­fully di­rect rel­e­vant tax col­lec­tion agen­cies es­tab­lished by the Na­tional As­sem­bly, such as the FIRS as he deems fit,” Sani stated. An­other lawyer, Mr. Chris Okeke, dis­agreed with the po­si­tion of the court on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 6, in­sist­ing that it failed to align with Jus­tice Ojukwu’s po­si­tion. “My take on the Pres­i­den­tial Or­der is, taken to­gether with the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion on the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence; I fail to find align­ment with judg­ment of the Fed­eral High Court.

“I have read the Pres­i­den­tial Or­der on off­shore as­sets, and par­tic­u­larly Switzer­land was men­tioned. The in­escapable ques­tions in­clude whether Switzer­land and in­deed, any other coun­try for that mat­ter will co­op­er­ate with you in that di­rec­tion. Where your de­mand con­flicts with the do­mes­tic laws and in­ter­ests of the co­op­er­at­ing coun­try, who do you ex­pect they will go with?

“Again, as it af­fects our do­mes­tic laws, it need be pointed out that the Pres­i­dent’s Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der is not a leg­is­la­tion, it is not an Act of the Na­tional As­sem­bly ei­ther.” He added: “Be­ing none of above, the or­der can­not in any­way abridge the rights, and or dero­gate from con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed rights of Nige­ri­ans un­der any guise or name.

“That they are called tax­a­tion is not an ex­cuse. Mean­while, I ex­pect the Supreme Court of Nige­ria to clear the air here in due course.

“Put dif­fer­ently, I ex­pect the judg­ment of the Fed­eral High Court to be chal­lenged on ap­peal pronto. In the mean­while, the Fed­eral High Court judg­ment in ques­tion has not jus­ti­fied the essence and beauty of con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism in Nige­ria.

“The Pres­i­dent can in­ter­vene only to the ex­tent al­lowed by the Con­sti­tu­tion and laws of the land,” he in­sisted.

Mean­while, the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) has re­jected what it called “an at­tempt by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari to foist a full-blown fas­cism on our coun­try, be­gin­ning with the place­ment of il­le­gal travel re­stric­tions on cer­tain un­named Nige­ri­ans.”

Out­go­ing Gov­er­nor of Ek­iti State Ay­o­dele Fayose bid his peo­ple farewell, yes­ter­day in Ado Ek­iti.

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