- says Buhari’s government acting naively and ignorantly
By Ehi Ekhator
A Lagos State based Nigerian lawyer Inibehe Effiong has argued that President Muhammadu Buhari’s executive order which was signed on Friday, cannot stand the test of constitutionality.
A senior aide to the President Mr Garba Shehu had said that the Executive Order was not meant to forfeit properties of people but to temporarily deny them access to the properties, but the Human Rights lawyer argued that the statement was a distinction without a difference, adding that the essence of forfeiture is to deny access; either temporarily or permanently.
Effiong said only an Act of the National Assembly can deprive a person of his property in pursuance of criminal investigation and prosecution, according to Section 44(1) of the Nigerian constitution.
The lawyer berates the current Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) describing him as “the worst in history”. He added “The President cannot usurp the judicial powers of the Court under Section 6 of the Constitution through Executive Order. It is illegal.”
Effiong Continues “Presumption of innocence is a fundamental right guaranteed by Section 36(5) of the Constitution. This government keeps sending signals that it is populated by ignorant people who do not know what they are doing. It is rather sad the Vice President is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
What is the purport of the Executive Order?
The Human Rights lawyer said Buhari is chasing shadows, adding that “There are provisions under the law on how to deny suspects access to suspicious properties: Sections 20-33 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 & Sections 43-49 of the ICPC Act, etc, makes ample provisions for this.
Two weeks ago, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the Federal Government from seizing funds in bank accounts not linked to BVN because due process was not followed.
“Obviously, this government has not learnt any lesson from that defeat. You cannot fight corruption outside the law.” The lawyer stressed.
He added: “This so-called fight against corruption will continue to suffer because this government does not know what it is doing. You are prosecuting Dasuki before a Judge, but you have refused to obey about 5 court orders admitting him to bail. The Judiciary is not a parastatal under President Buhari.
“I am aware that the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2017 is still pending before the National Assembly. The government should be exerting more pressure on the parliament to pass it into law. Only the National Assembly can make laws. Executive Orders cannot substitute Acts of parliament.
“Every Lawyer in Nigeria that is worth his salt should be conversant with the case of Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu (1986) 2 NWLR (PT 18) 621 where the Supreme Court set a precedent against impunity and stopped the military from taking Ojukwu’s property without due process.
“I want us to know that no government lawyer will cite Buhari’s “integrity” in court as an authority upon which the court should base its decision and convict. This government is playing to the gallery and acting both naively and ignorantly.
“Sentiments and Law are not identical.”