A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot seize assets of any Nigerian citizen without a valid order of court permitting him to do so.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu who gave the clarification in a judgment Thursday on the validity of the Presidential Executive Order 6 signed on July 5, held that the powers given to the Attorney-General of the Federation must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Justice Ojukwu, who noted that the Order seemed to give the AGF the discretion on when to seek court’s permission to seize any suspected property, said the AGF must, at all times, obtain a court order before seizing any asset.
Ruling on the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/740/2018, Justice Ojukwu, however, held that it was within the powers of the President, as granted by the Constitution, to issue Executive Orders for the execution of Executive policies, as long as such orders do not offend the doctrine of separation of powers.
The court in addition, held that the Executive Order 6 did not violate the right of citizens to own property, but was informed by the President’s willingness to preserve suspected property from being dissipated.
The judge added that such application for the court’s permission to seize any suspected asset could be made ex-parte.
Two lawyers, Ikenga Ugochinyere and Kenneth Udeze, had approached the court to void the Presidential Executive Order on grounds that it violates the rights of citizens to own property.
In the suit which has President Muhammadu Buhari and the 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 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 yet to be convicted, are also entitled.
The plaintiffs added that by virtue of the provisions of sections 5, 36 and 43 of the 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 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 interfere with, or encroach 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.
The plaintiffs equally want a declaration “that the president cannot validly exercise his constitutional powers by deliberately undermining, limiting and/or inhibiting the entrenched constitutional rights of any citizen of Nigeria to fair hearing vide the issuance of the Order.”
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