By Umar Muhammad Puma, Christiana Ekpa, Umar Muhammad Puma, and Musa Adamu
In what appears to be a direct response to the National Assembly, the Federal Government has defended the constitutionality of the Executive Order 6, recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying those opposed to it should go to court.
The House of Representatives had in a motion sponsored by Rep Ossai Nicholas Ossai and 27 others on Wednesday rejected the executive order, saying the order appears to hijack and usurp legislative and judicial powers.
The President on July 15, signed the executive order which will prevent any government official from engaging in corrupt practices, misappropriating state assets for personal gain, or engage in corrupt practices related to the performance of his or her duties.
Similarly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), condemned the executive order, describing it as illegal, unconstitutional, reprehensive and a dangerous step towards facism.
However, the federal government described the Executive Order Number 6, recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Administration’s most potent weapon against corruption.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also said the executive order No. 6 of 2018 aims to, among others, 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.
‘’The truth is that, having realized the potency of the Order in giving muscle to the fight against corruption – which by the way is one of the three cardinal programmes of our Administration – the corrupt and their cohorts have become jittery. They have every reason to be. Henceforth, it won’t be business as usual.
‘’For those who claim that the Executive Order Number 6 is dictatorial, it is clear they have not even read it. Section. 3 (i) of the Order states that any Person who alleges that his rights have been violated, are being or are likely to be contravened by any of the provision of this Executive Order may apply to a competent Court in his jurisdiction for redress,’’ the Minister said.
He said President Buhari is not the first democratically-elected Nigerian President to sign Executive Orders, adding: ‘’In 1980, then President Shehu Shagari issued an Executive Order to modify the Public Order Act. This was unsuccessfully challenged in court by then Governors of Ogun and Borno States. In 1999, then President Obasanjo issued Executive Orders to abolish the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and to proclaim May 29 as Democracy Day.’’
On the constitutionality of Executive Order Number 6, Alhaji Mohammed said the President has the power, under Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution as amended – which extends to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution, all Laws made by the National Assembly (including but not limited to Section 15(5) of the Constitution) – to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
He said the war against corruption is a must-win for Nigeria in order to free national resources for the nation’s development, and noted that the new measure became necessary to ‘’re-kit and re-tool’’ the Administration’s arsenal to effectively tackle corruption.
The Minister said in the United States, after which Nigeria’s presidential system of government was fashioned, Presidents, starting from George Washington to Donald Trump, have used Executive Orders to shape policies.
‘’George Washington, who was President of the US from 1789 to 1797, issued 8 Executive Orders. Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945) issued 3,522 Executive Orders; Barack Obama (2009-2017) issued 275 in eight years; Bill Clinton (1993-2001) 364 and current President Donald Trump 80 so far. Recently, the US Supreme Court upheld, 5-4, President Trump’s indefinite ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. That ban was the result of an Executive Order,’’ he said.
Alhaji Mohammed hailed President Buhari, the African Union’s Champion on Anti-Corruption, for showing uncommon courage and leadership by unveiling Nigeria’s most potent tool against corruption, and appealed to Nigerians to support the Administration’s efforts to tackle the cankerworm of corruption.