Lawmakers on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House of Representatives yesterday stormed out of the Green Chamber in protest against a motion to suspend Executive Order 006 recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The National Assembly is proposing to strip the president of his power on asset forfeiture and bestow it on a High Court judge who is to use his discretion to decide whether or not to order the forfeiture. The House resolved that President Buhari should suspend implementation of the Executive Order in view of its controversial nature, which conflicts with relevant provisions of the law. The House also invited the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and chairman of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission, Kefas Magaji, to appear before it with a comprehensive list of all subsidiary legislation in Nigeria published in the Federal Gazette within two weeks.
The lawmakers were divided along party lines in support of and against the motion during debate at plenary, just as the session became rowdy when some members openly declared allegiance to the reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) during the debate. Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai, and nine other members had jointly raised a motion seeking to compel President Buhari to suspend implementation of the Executive Order. While leading the debate under matter of urgent national importance, Ossia noted that the Executive Order amounts to usurping legislative powers, even as he said it is similar to Decree 2 of 1984. He said, “Are we going back to the military era. If the House sits back and allow our power to be usurped, the power vested on us by the people of Nigeria who elected us to represent their interests. History will not forgive us many years to come, and it will be on record that when we were in the House, the president wrote a law and the members of the National Assembly refused to challenge him.
“The Executive Order number 006 of 2018 is a clear usurpation of legislative and judicial powers and a replication of subsisting legislation such as section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property, Special Provision Act of 1983, Section 330 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 and certain provisions of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act”.
The lawmaker argued that Section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act of 1983 specifically vests the Federal High Court with powers to direct, require, prohibit any disposition of property, movable or immovable, where a prima facie case has been established against a person. “The Executive Order 006 is similar to the dreaded Decree Number 2 of 1984 that could be used as an instrument to hunt, traumatize harass and victimize perceived political opponents,” he noted. In his contribution, the member representing Owo/Ose federal constituency of Ondo State, Hon Bode Ayorinde, regretted the president’s action. Ayorinde who is the deputy chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business said, “A situation where the president will combine the powers of the parliament and the Judiciary by an executive order, is not proper, it is an aberration, we must rise and challenge it. The merit of it is a different thing, the order itself is unconstitutional, we should remind ourselves that we are in a democracy”
But the member representing Ede North /Ede South / Ejigbo federal constituency of Osun state, Prof Mojeed Alabi, opposed the motion to suspend the Executive Order. Alabi who argued that the motion is incompetent and premature said, “Does the President have powers to make an Executive Order. The answer in affirmative is yes; the president has power to make Executive Order. “Presidential order under the constitution is not illegal and there is no clear definition of presidential order. What the president has done is it illegal? The answer is no, I expected sponsors of this motion to look at the Order itself and not base their judgment on speculation”.
Alabi however observed that the first prayer in the motion is usurpation of the power of the judiciary, saying the parliament cannot determine whether or not the Executive Order is legal or illegal. There was a mild drama in the House when Ayorinde and another member who represents Offa/Oyun/Ifelodun federal constituency of Kwara state, Hon Tope Olayonu, declared allegiance to the R-APC. The declaration, which generated reactions from members of the mainstream APC, met stiff resistance from PDP members in the House.
When the motion was eventually passed by a voice vote, some members of the APC who felt cheated by the judgement of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara registered their displeasure by staging a walkout from the Green Chamber. Reps Oppose Financing Of Ajaokuta Steel With Abacha Loot Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday threw out a bill seeking the utilisation of the recovered $322.5milion looted by late General Sani Abacha to complete the Ajaokuta steel company and rail projects in the country. It noted that the bill is enmeshed in controversy on the constitutional provisions given that the money is meant for the consolidated revenue fund of the country, which is shared between the three tiers of government.
Sponsor of the bill, Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai, in his lead debate argued that the Abacha loot be channeled into funding for the completion of Ajaokuta steel and rail projects across the country. Ossai argued that the House has the power to allocate the repatriated loot to Ajaokuta and railway projects by enacting a law for the very purpose, which the Bill seeks to achieve. The lawmaker faulted the notion that Abacha loot belongs to the entire country and as such should be domiciled in the consolidated revenue fund and shared among the three tiers of government. According to him, the late head of state did not steal funds belonging to the local government or state but the federal government, which the National Assembly has the constitutional power to appropriate. “Abacha stole FG’s money, not States’”, he contended, adding that the states and local governments already have their separate allocations different from the federal government.
But Hon Edward Pwajok picked holes in Ossai’s argument when he raised constitutional concern about the nature of the funds. Pwajok noted that stolen funds, which were returned, are to be kept in federation account. Citing sections 162(3)(10) of the constitution, he adviced the Bill be stepped down and represented when the federal government got its own share.