At a brief ceremony in the State House on July 5, President Muhammadu Buhari signed an executive order which in the main empowers security and anti-corruption agencies to freeze assets of individuals with corruption cases.
The Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 “on the Preservation of Assets connected with serious corruption and other relevant offences” also declared “state of emergency” on corruption.
“It has .. become necessary to re-kit and re-tool our arsenal to be able to effectively tackle corruption’s perilous counter-attack against the Nigerian State.
”Accordingly, the Federal Government of Nigeria has declared a national emergency to deal with that crisis. In this regard, the Federal Government of Nigeria in line with its anti-corruption strategy seeks to ensure that the ends of justice is not defeated or compromised by persons involved in a case or complaint of corruption.
“It is in consequence of this that I have decided to issue the Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 to inter alia restrict dealings in suspicious assets subject to investigation or inquiry bordering on corruption in order to preserve such assets from dissipation, and to deprive alleged criminals of the proceeds of their illicit activities which can otherwise be employed to allure, pervert and/or intimidate the investigative and judicial processes or for acts of terrorism, financing of terrorism, kidnapping, sponsorship of ethnic or religious violence, economic sabotage and cases of economic and financial crimes, including acts contributing to the economic adversity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and against the overall interest of justice and the welfare of the Nigerian State.” he said
Expectedly, mixed reactions greeted the Executive Order with opinion divided on its propriety and timing.
Most Nigerians are agreed to the need to fight corruption which has been at the centre of the country’s underdevelopment since independence. In as much as support the war against corruption, we are of the view that the war must be fought on the basis of the principle of the rule of law and due process.
Any effort at fighting corruption must be in conformity with the democratic principles and the provisions of the nation’s constitution. We have serious fears that the new Order smacks of a Military Decree which seeks in guise to minise the powers of the Courts on one hand while giving the anti-graft agencies extra-constitutional powers to act outside the provisions of extant laws of the land.
We are equally in doubt as to the rationale for declaring the fight against corruption as a “National Emergency” when the Buhari administration has been quick to point at the fight against corruption as one of its major success points.
It is suspicious that having failed to address some of the nation’s most embarrassing security situations like the continued killings of innocent people by the Fulani Herdsmen militia in Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Kogi, Kaduna and other states of the federation, the presidency has suddenly woken up with the theory that corruption is linked to the serial cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and Herdsmen’s killings.
In our view, rather than theorize, the Federal Government should name any particular corruption suspect under investigation or trial that is even remotely linked to threats to our national security.
Even at the risk of repetition, we make the point and unambiguously so that the Executive should never under any guise attempt to whittle down the powers of the Courts as the Executive Order 6, seeks to do. The constitutional principle of separation of powers must not be compromised under any circumstance.
Accordingly, we warn that the Executive Order should never become a tool to reign in the opposition and perceived political foes on pretext of fighting corruption. With the 2019 elections fast approaching, the temptation highly exists that the Executive Order will be used to dispossess opposition politicians of the means to support their political choices.
Rather than declare “National Emergency” on corruption, the Federal Government should declare “National Emergency” on the continued killings of innocent Nigerians by the Herdsmen militia.
In a nut shell therefore, the country can do without this Executive Order. The Federal Government can do well to suspend its implementation or out-rightly withdraw it.