SAN Seeks Equal Application as Lawyer Backs Executive Order 6

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr. Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) has welcomed the Executive Order 06 issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He urged law enforcement agencies to ensure its equal application without fear, favour or ill-will.

A former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Legal Adviser Mr. Victor C. Nwaugo also backed Executive Order 6.

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), had said the essence of the Executive Order 6 was to ensure that assets connected to persons under investigation or trial were not dissipated.

Okutepa said Nigeria was not the only country where that kind of executive order was being issued.

He recalled that in the United Kingdom, there is the Unexplained Wealth Order, which is applied to those whose assets appear to be more than their legitimate income.

Okutepa said: “I think the essence of these orders is to ensure that corruption is dealt a fatal blow in our land. I think the greatest enemies of Nigeria are Nigerians not the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or All Progressives Congress (APC).

“The primitive acquisitions of material wealth in Nigeria and the unbridled manner it is done and being done should worry any right thinking person. The primaries of political parties have come and gone but we all saw what aspirants went through.

“We should be worried that people buy their way to power. The rate of corruption and corrupt influences in Nigeria require extraordinary measures to deal with.

“Those talking about human rights of those who have sentenced us to economic death sentence should appreciate that when those people were killing us vide corruption, they did not think of our own human rights to good road, health care and other social amenities.

“Nigerians must see that corruption is the greatest business enterprise in Nigeria. We all hate it but love its practice. For me any measure that will bring corruption to an end is good for Nigeria.

“Corruption is a heavyweight wrestler. It cannot be fought with kids’ glove. We need necessary process to fight it and I believe the Orders of government are necessary instruments to fight it.

“As Nigerians, we should insist on even application to all and sundry without fear or favour affection or ill-will. There must not be selective applications.”

Nwaugo said the order was merely a presidential policy directive issued towards curbing corruption.

“It should be borne in mind that, in course of the campaign for the election of Muhammadu Buhari as the President of Nigeria, he made fight against corruption one of the cardinal principles of his administration, which Nigerians overwhelmingly endorsed by voting him into power.

“That the 1999 constitution guarantees freedom of movement and fair trial of a Nigerian citizen does not guarantee absolute freedom or innocence of every Nigerian.

“The constitution qualifies such freedom and fair trial under Sections 35 (1) (c) and 36 (5) of the constitution.

“Presumption of innocence does not qualify as absolute innocence hence once an accused is under investigation, his right to freely move may be temporarily hampered within the realm of the security agency concerned or even before the court if charged.

“In fact, once a person is standing trial, his freedom of movement is temporarily hampered pending the trial and determination of his case as his right to movement will be subjected to the discretion of the court concerned,” Nwaugo said.

The lawyer recalled that America had refused to allow journalists interview security agents who interrogated the perpetrators of bombing of twin pillars of America, as it was classified as a matter of security.

“Extra ordinary situation requires extra-ordinary measure. In Nigeria, right before our very eyes few individuals have cornered by fraudulent means, the resources and  wealth that would have liberated Nigeria from the shackles of poverty.

“Contracts running into billions would be awarded for construction of roads, the roads would not be constructed, but the money released and shared by few while the majority will be made to suffer the effect of failure to construct such roads. Some lose their goods or lives for few wicked fraudsters to smile to the bank.

“There is the argument that Order 6 of 2018 seeks to usurp the functions of the Judiciary particularly because some of the presumed persons to be affected by the Order are already standing trial before the court and therefore subject to the discretion of the court in determining whether they can travel out of Nigeria or not.

“That argument cannot hold water in the face of the case of Barr. Ikenga Imo & Anor vs. President of Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor, FHC/ABJ/CS/740/18where the court affirmed our position that Executive Order 6 of 2018 is not self executory but that concerned security agency shall seek the discretion of court in the temporary seizure or restriction of movement of the citizen concerned.

“In other words, the security agency concerned in the ongoing cases before the court can only restrict the movement of any accused person or temporarily seize the suspected corruptly acquired property after obtaining an Order of court to that effect.

“I have carefully perused the contents of Executive Order 6 of 2018, I have also compared same with the constitutional provisions guaranteeing fundamental right of Nigerians, I have also looked at Sections 5 and 15 (5) of the 1999 constitution which empowers the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria to exercise Executive Powers of the Federation and abolish all corrupt practices.

“I have come to the immutable conclusion that Preservation of Assets Connected with Corruption and other Related Offences Order 2018 is a necessary instrument that will enable the relevant agencies wage war against corruption in Nigeria,” Nwaugo said.

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