…Insists seizure must be in line with the Constitution, court order
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, held that Presidential Executive Order 6 issued by Muhammadu Buhari was in the exercise of his powers under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In her judgment in the suit filed two lawyers, Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere and Mr. Kenneth Udeze challenging the propriety the order, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu affirmed the proprietary of the ‘Presidential Executive Order No . 6 of July 5, 2018 on the Preservation of Assets’.
She stated however that the Executive Orders for the execution of policies by the executive arm of government must respect the principles of separation of powers.
The judge further stated that the Executive Order 6 did not violate the right of citizens to own property, insisting that the order informed by President Buhari’s willingness to save suspected property from being dissipated.
The Executive Order No 6 empowers the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to liaise with relevant investigative agencies to temporarily seize properties linked with corruption pending investigation and conclusion of trial to prevent the dissipation of such assets.
The plaintiffs had argued that the order violates peoples’ rights to own property and denied fair hearing to owners of any property forcefully seized.
The suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/740/2018, has President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as defendants.
The plaintiffs contended that by the provisions of sections 5, 36 and 43 of the Constitution, the President lacked the power to issue the Executive Order.
They argued further that by issuing the Executive Order, the President allegedly encroached on the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens to own properties, a right to which persons, who are standing trial or being investigated, but are yet to be convicted, are also entitled.
The plaintiffs added that by virtue of the provisions of Sections 5, 36 and 43 of the 1999 Constitution, the President lacked the power to issue such an order “on matters not connected with the execution and maintenance of the Constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly and to all matters with respect to which the National Assembly has, for the time being, power to make laws.”
They consequently urged the court to restrain both defendants from enforcing it and prayed for a declaration that “the act or conduct of the president in issuing the order interferes with, or encroaches into the ownership, or otherwise of the assets or properties of any person without such person being found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, is unconstitutional, null and void.
But Justice Ojukwu in Thursday’s judgment viewed the issue differently as she insisted that the order was constitutional.
Justice Ojukwu however cautioned that the powers given to the AGF under the Executive Order 6 must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
The judge held that although the Order seemed to give the AGF discretion as to when to seek permission of the court to seize any suspected property, it must at all times, obtain a court order before seizing any asset. Such application, the court held, could be made ex-parte.