Two lawyers, Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere and Mr. Kenneth Udeze, have filled a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja praying for an order nullifying the Executive Order 6 of 2018 which provides for the seizure of assets linked to ongoing criminal trials and investigations.
They also urged the court to restrain both President Muhammadu Buhari who issued the Executive Order 6 and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), designated as the coordinator of its implementation, from enforcing it.
The President on July 5, 2018, issued the Executive Order, which is titled in full as ‘Presidential Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 on the Preservation of Assets Connected with Corruption and Other Related Offences’.
But the plaintiffs in their suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/740/2018 and filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Mr. Obed Agu, on July 13, argued that the PEO contravened constitutional provisions.
They argued that by virtue of the combined effect of sections 5, 36 and 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President lacked the power to issue the PEO.
They maintained that the President’s act or conduct in issuing the PEO interfered with or encroached into the ownership of assets or properties of any person without such person being found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
They maintained that by virtue of the constitutional provisions, 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”.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on Wednesday fixed August 8 for the hearing of the suit in which Buhari and the AGF are the defendants.
The plaintiffs were represented by their lawyer, Mr. Obed Agu, and the defendants by Mr. Bashir Mohammed.
Before the judge adjourned the case on Wednesday, Mohammed informed her during the proceedings that he had filed on behalf of his clients a memorandum of conditional appearance which is an indication of their interest to file a preliminary objection to challenge the competence of the suit.
The PEO which designates the AGF as the coordinating authority directs him to “at all times in this connection, employ all available lawful means, including seeking appropriate order(s) of court where necessary, and ensure that assets shall not be transferred, withdrawn, or dealt with in any way until the final determination by a court of competent jurisdiction of any corruption related matter against such person.”
It also, among others, directs the 19 specifically mentioned Federal Government agencies and authorities “to ensure the preservation of suspicious assets and prevent their dissipation or removal from the jurisdiction of Nigerian courts, in order to facilitate, support and enable the expeditious and accelerated prosecution of the alleged corrupt practices, serious or complex corruption, and other relevant offences”.