…’EO6 aimed at dismantling economic base of corrupt persons’
…Says law not new, not peculiar to Nigeria
…Administration official: ‘We are after those who claim to have slumped and died, others who come to court on stretchers saying they are half dead and seeking medical tourism abroad only to bounce back once they leave court premises’
By Soni Daniel, Northern
Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching – Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart
AttorneyGeneral of Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami
The torrents of discontent pouring out since the promulgation of Executive Order 6, last week, have been ceaseless and searing. Perhaps, the authors of the law neither imagined for once how fierce and scathing the reactions of Nigerians would be, nor saw through their prisms the audacity of the aggrieved elements to challenge the government in court as soon as it birthed.
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The forces of opposition flexing their muscles against the government over the new law are as ferocious as the pain, which the government’s action is expected to inflict on those restricted from travelling from the shores of Nigeria on their own terms. And, this has effectively drawn a battle line between the administration and its foes. It is obvious from the look of things that the furore, which the government sees as a mere distraction, is not likely to thaw in the shortest possible time.
Those opposed to the travel ban, which has so far not specified any Nigerian name to be restricted and when, are up in arms against the government and their voices have been heard loud and clear from within and without Nigeria.
Activist lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, riled Buhari for even contemplating the new order, describing it as vitriol against the people of Nigeria and a strident attempt by the administration to usurp the powers of the courts.
The Constitutional lawyer said, “The ban is high-handed, obnoxious, barbaric, pristine, capricious, whimsical and arbitrary as it violently erodes hallowed fundamental rights that are inalienable and God-given. It seeks to strike terror and fear in the minds of Nigerians, especially the opposition and critical voices. It usurps the functions of a court of law and the NASS that has already promulgated the EFCC, ICPC and Money Laundering Acts, all of which allow for interim forfeiture and attachment of citizens’ money and properties, but with an ORDER of a court of law”.
Adding a voice to the cacophony of voices raging against the Buhari administration, another critic and human rights activist, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, said it was unconstitutional for a democratic government to restrain a citizen from his right to free movement without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Accoring to him, “it is my opinion therefore that the present attempt by the Executive to circumscribe the rights to free movement by certain citizens of Nigeria must of necessity go the way of the Executive Order 06.
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This is in contrast to the right of the appropriate security agencies to effect an arrest of a citizen pursuant to a properly issued warrant of his arrest with all the attendant duty to establish that the citizen has either committed an offence either singly or in conjunction with other persons.”
The voices of dissent, notwithstanding, the Buhari administration appears to have made up its mind to ensure that top Nigerians, who are alleged to have soiled their hands with public funds, or had allegedly engaged in other forms of financial crimes, human or drug trafficking and the cases are currently pending in courts of competent jurisdiction, are no longer allowed the freedom to ‘check out of the country’ at will like the proverbial Andrew.
Like a thunder from the blues, Buhari slammed the suspected top Nigerians with the order via a terse statement released on his behalf by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu on Saturday night.
In it, Buhari made it known that he had authorised the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to among other things, put a number of enforcement procedures in place through which security agencies and the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies had placed no fewer than 50 high profile persons directly affected by EO6 on watch-list and restrict them from leaving the county pending the determination of their cases.
According to the president, the financial transactions of the persons of interest were also being monitored by the relevant agencies to ensure that the assets of the suspects were not dissipated and such persons do not interfere with or corrupt the investigation and litigation processes.
“It is instructive to note that EO6 was specifically directed to relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that all assets within a minimum value of N50 million or equivalent, subject to investigation or litigation are protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful means, pending the final determination of any corruption-related matter.
“The Buhari administration reassures all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians of its commitment to the fight against corruption, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the general principles of the Rule of Law.
“Accordingly, this administration will uphold the rule of law in all its actions and the right of citizens would be protected as guaranteed by the Constitution.
“We, therefore, enjoin all Nigerians to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities towards ensuring a successful implementation of the Executive Order 6, which is a paradigm-changing policy of the Federal Government in the fight against corruption,” the Presidency said.
In a bid to enforce the travel ban and keep an eye on the assets of those being targeted by the administration, the EO 6 listed the 20 agencies that will enforce the law.
THEY ARE: ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC)
NATIONAL AGENCY FOR THE PROHIBITION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (NAPTIP)
NIGERIA POLICE FORCE (NPF)
INDEPENDENT CORRUPT PRACTICES AND OTHER RELATED OFFENCES COMMISSION (ICPC)
NATIONAL DRUG LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY (NDLEA)
NIGERIA CUSTOMS SERVICE (NCS)
NATIONAL AGENCY FOR FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL (NAFDAC)
NIGERIAN IMMIGRATION SERVICE (NIS)
STANDARDS ORGANIZATION OF NIGERIA (SON)
NIGERIAN SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS (NSCDC)
FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY COMMISSION (FRSC)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE SERVICES (DSS)
NIGERIAN COPYRIGHT COMMISSION (NCC)
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMSSION (SEC)
CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU (CCB)
NIGERIAN FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT (NFIU)
CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA (CBN)
OFFICE OF THE HEAD OF CIVIL SERVICE OF THE FEDERATION
19.NATIONAL IDENTITY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION
ANY OTHER AGENCY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT MAY BE SUBSEQUENTLY INCLUDED BY THE HONOURABLE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION.
But the AGF, Abubakar Malami, when contacted, explained that the federal government’s travel ban was targeted at only Nigerians who had financial crime cases in court with the value of assets above N50 million and not all Nigerians.
Malami said, “All Nigerians who have no financial, drug and human trafficking cases and have not defrauded the government and people of Nigeria in any way, have no reason to fear about the recent travel ban imposed by the federal government.
“The travel ban is not aimed at limiting or restricting the freedom of movement of any well-meaning and right-standing Nigerian but those who have skeletons in their cupboards,” the AGF said.
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Addressing the whole gamut of EO6 and its implications, which is precursor to the travel ban, Malami told a television station in Nigeria on Thursday that the whole essence of the order was to dismantle the economic base of corrupt Nigerians.
“The essence of the EO6 is to attack the economic undertones that constitute the source of strength, the source of desire of the person, in terms of nailing down the process of judicial determination of process,” he said.
But responding to a question on the order which seeks to forfeit the assets of those being tried for alleged corruption, Malami explained: “The good thing about the EO6 is that any person, who is declared innocent of any financial and economic breach by the law court, gets back their assets, which might had been temporarily attached during trial.
“Let me say that EO is not new and is not peculiar to Nigeria but is being used frequently in many other countries of the world, such as the United States of America.
“Let me therefore assure all well-meaning Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari does not intend to seize or forfeit the asset or property of any innocent Nigerian and will also not do anything to limit their freedom,” the AGF said.
But a top Presidency official explained that the Buhari administration was not targeting just anyone in Nigeria but those who are already being tried in court but had been using undue tactics, including frequent trips abroad, to delay and frustrate their trials, thereby frustrating the conclusion of their criminal matters.
The official said, “These are the same people who have serious financial crimes cases in court but are daily adopting various tactics such as travelling regularly outside Nigeria and actively taking steps to frustrate the prosecution and conclusion of such cases.
“The present administration is simply saying that enough is enough to these people, who also have questionable wealth which they frequently deploy to influence the trial of their cases and turn round to attack the government of not doing enough to fight corruption.
“These same people are the ones who have engaged in corrupt practices and they are the same people who are shouting from the top of their voices that they are being persecuted.
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“In recent times, most of them have resorted to puerile drama in court by claiming to have ‘slumped and died’ while others have come to court in semi coffins claiming to be half dead and seeking to be flown abroad just in a bid to escape and frustrate their criminal trials.
“It is for these and other crude tactics, which suspects have shamelessly demonstrated in courts, that the federal government opted for the travel ban and it has nothing whatsoever to do with innocent, hardworking and law-abiding Nigerians,” the top presidency official explained.
But it was clear at the weekend that while the federal government released 155 names of Nigerians who are facing charges from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP and 17 others, the travel ban would undoubtedly apply first and foremost to top Nigerians, who have corruption and money laundering cases with the court filed by the EFCC.
On the list being prosecuted by the EFCC and captured by the EO6, which was published on July 5, 2018, are former governors such as: Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Rasheed Ladoja (Oyo), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Muazu Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Gbenga Daniel (Ogun); and Ibrahim Shehu Shema (Katsina).
All of them belong to the two leading political parties – APC and PDP – at one time or the other.
Others who have cases with EFCC and are listed under the EO6 are: the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), two former female ministers- Nenadi Usman and Jumoke Akinjide, Bashir Yuguda, Bala Mohammed; Abba Moro; Femi Fani-Kayode; and Ahmadu Fintiri.
Also on the list are: a former National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh; Chief Jide Omokore; Ricky Tarfa; and Dele Belgore (SAN).
Interestingly, the names of the suspects are attached to cases currently pending in courts in the country and most of the suspects have made appearances although the cases have not made significant progress so far.
But as the furore over the EO6 and the travel ban reverberates across the land, it is likely that the federal government might be forced to have a rethink or even throw the controversial bill overboard; it could also stick to its guns unless the court overturns the order, which has already been appealed against by two lawyers – Ikenga Ugochinyere and Kenneth Udeze.
The two men, who approached the Appeal Court to set the order aside, argued that the order amounted to a deliberate attempt to usurp the powers of the courts of law and a deviation from democracy.
They argued that the lower court erred in law when it ruled that EO6 did not violate the rights of Nigerians to own properties.
As the government moves to enforce EO6 and the voices of dissent deploy all available arsenal to shut it down, it is left to be seen who will eventually win the legal battle.
Will the Buhari administration behave as an appeaser by feeding the crocodiles in the Nigerian political arena and abandon the implementation of the order or will he defiantly damn the consequences of being seen as a despot and challenge his challengers?