A Federal High Court has upheld President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order 6, stating that it is in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Executive Order 6, signed by Buhari on July 5, empowers the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to liaise with relevant agencies to temporarily seize properties linked with corruption. The properties will be seized pending investigations and the conclusion of a trial in order to ensure that the assets are not dissipated.
The judgment upholding the executive order was delivered by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, at the Federal High Court in Abuja. Justice Ojukwu stated that the constitution has granted the President powers to issue executive orders for the execution of policies by the executive arm of government, provided that those orders do not breach the separation of powers between the executive and legislative arms of government.
Judge Ojukwu added that the Executive Order is not in violation of citizens’ rights to own property, however, it is informed by the President’s willingness to ensure said properties are not squandered.
Two lawyers, Ikenga Ugochinyere and Kenneth Udeze, have said they will appeal the court’s judgment as the Order has no legal basis and ought to be easily upturned on appeal. They have also argued that the Order violates peoples’ rights to own property and potentially denies a fair hearing to property owners.
Since the incumbent government discovered the power of Executive Orders in 2017 when Acting President Yemi Osinbajo signed the EO1 on Ease of Doing Business, the administration has been releasing them rapidly. Only this week President Buhari signed his eight executive order in less than two years.
Executive Order 6 has however been the most contentious one because of its potential to be used as a tool of victimization against political opponents of the government. The order contains several provisions believed to be outside the powers of the president by law.
The order provides that it would “protect from dissipation… the assets of any Nigerian citizen within the territory of the federal republic of Nigeria… known to be a current or former government official who is or has been complicit in or has been engaged in corrupt practices…” The argument by those opposed to the order is that it is not the place of the executive to determine who is complicit in corrupt practices – it is the place of the courts.
Ultimately, this is a case that should be decided by the Supreme Court.