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Published On: Fri, Jul 13th, 2018

Presidential Executive Order 6 causes stir in opposition’s camp

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Desperate problem attracts desperate solution, so goes the saying. Endemic corruption is a desperate problem in this country and only a leader with the willpower to do the extraordinary can successfully confront the menace.
President Buhari’s efforts at fighting corruption in the country in the last three years have been encumbered by the nation’s legal system where an accused remains innocent until proven guilty. Prosecution and conviction of corrupt individuals in a country with the existing legal architecture has remained tortuous and, most often than not, unproductive because of the legal roadblocks and loopholes being exploited by unscrupulous elements to frustrate the process.
Thus, it has become fashionable for cases to drag for so long in the courts while those being prosecuted for looting the nation’s treasury enjoy uninhibited access to their ill-gotten wealth. Most often than not, suspected looters undergoing prosecution deploy huge resources to frustrate their prosecution and sometimes escape justice.
The president once expressed disapproval of the system when he recounted that those assets he seized from suspected corrupt persons when he took over power in 1985 as a military Head of State were later returned to them when he was overthrown in a palace coup by his successor. He regretted not disposing those assets and return the proceeds to the government coffers at that time vowing never to repeat such mistake this time around.
Guarded by his unsavory experience and his determination to clear the Augean stable and rid the country of corruption considerably in his second coming, the President last week signed a Presidential Order Number 6 with a declaration of emergency on corruption. He believed that drastic action must be taken for corruption not to snuff out life out of the country.
He said “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.”
With this, those that have plundered the nation in the past and mobilizing resources to return to power in 2019, with stolen wealth still in their possession even when having their days in the courts, have every reason to fear.
Expectedly, those opposed to this have begun to exploit the lacuna in the provisions of the constitution by arguing that the President lacked the power to usurp the duties of both the legislature and judiciary simultaneously.
They argue that the responsibility of ruling whether an asset was gotten through corrupt means reside solely with the judiciary.
Critics also argue that the President ought to approach the National Assembly with an Asset Forfeiture Bill for passage instead of seeking to achieve same unilaterally through an executive order.
Others posit that he plans to use the order as an instrument of intimidation against his most vociferous and powerful political opponents who are determined to stop his reelection bid as 2019 beckons.
In any case, the implementation of the Executive Order will go a long way in the fight against corruption. A situation where a suspected looter would have access to limitless stolen funds to frustrate the system is unacceptable. There just must be a way of severing suspected looters from their assets while facing prosecution.

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