Just last week, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari declared an enforcement of the Executive Order 6 and subsequently banned 50 notable Nigerians who have pending suits bordering on corruption allegations in courts from travelling abroad while some of their property were also confisticated. The action has however been generating series of arguments both for and against. This has further divided some legal practitioners in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. To some of the lawyers, the idea is a welcome development and needful to rid the country of corruption, to some others, the action is politically motivated to disarm powers of those perceived to be threat to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
In this vox pop, our JUDICIARY CORRESPONDENT, KAYODE ADEOTI however seeks positions of the legal practitioners on the issue. Excerpts:
Joseph Bamigoye SAN: No justification for ban
I don’t understand the hype, to me, it doesn’t make any meaning. Most of these names mentioned are on bail conditions which are very stringent. Most of them don’t have their passport, I don’t understand the publication. I understand that the Federal Government has denied publishing those list that EFCC did. Maybe, EFCC publication is merely declaratory of what the court has said. Some of them claimed to have won their cases and declared unaquitted like Bafarawa, if that is true, why is his name still on the list? It will be good the EFCC go back, look at the list and see those on with conditions. I don’t see any reason why such a ban should be imposed. It is good to fight corruption but we should do so base on what is lawful. There is this constitutional quarantee of presumption of innocence. The fact that there is an allegation against the man doesn’t mean that he’s guilty. Out of those that are been tried, how many of them have been convicted? We shouldn’t be holier than thou. The constitution in its wisdom has said that no matter the gravity of the offence, one is still presumed innocent until it is proven contrary. That’s our jurisprudence, the template to which all tiers of government must operate. Anything beyond the rule of law is rascality.
Sulyman Abaya: Order display high level of President ignorance in law
The highest law in the land, the organic law, the 1999 constitution as amended is the constitution that will justify movement of someone, whether to go outside the country or not. That order is against the chapter 4 of 1999 constitution because it infract on the fundamental rights of an individual to move from one place to the other unhindered. Freedom of movement is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s also the constitution that provides an exception where those movement can be curtained. For instance, if somebody has committed an offence and order of the court is restricting the person in detention. To keep the movement of a person in abeyance, it cannot be an executive or legislative order but an order from the court of law. There is also a presumption of innocence granted everybody even in the face of heinous crime. The cases of these persons have not been decided by court of law, so, nobody, not even the president can restrict their movements. I’m not surprised by this order because it is a display of highest level of ignorance by the President or the executive. In 2007, the Supreme Court has specifically pronounced Buhari in a case of INEC against Wari that the mere fact that somebody is a sitting or former President doesn’t mean the person knows the law. The president has displayed his ignorance again; even the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN failed to caution him. Their cases have not been decided in court, the executive order is subjudice.
Ronke Adeyemi: Aggrieved should seek legal clarifications
My position is simple over this matter. What the president did is within the confine of the law. He’s empowered under the law for the good governance of the country. It’s just like a situation where court gives an order that someone should be executed or remanded but someone is saying such person has right to stay alive. To me, any action exercised within the confine of the law is allowed. Those who feel aggrieved about it should go to court so that the matter can be laid to rest. Also, the argument that it is the court that supposed to make the order not the president cannot stand. The president has the power to make order for the good of his government.
Olayinka Dauda Jimoh: Freedom of movement not absolute
The order made by the President is in consonance with the ruling of the Federal High Court. The president is empowered under the law to do what he did. Of course, Federal High Court is not the final bus stop, the same order can still be appealed against. We have three arms of government, Judiciary, Legislative and the Executive, every one of them has constitutional role to play and one cannot play the role of the other. However, the executive is to arrest these people and take them to court. All these names mentioned are already facing prosecution in the court of competent jurisdictions and they’ve been on bail. We shouldn’t forget that they cannot be granted bail without some conditions, but they’ve fulfilled their conditions for bails. What is happening now is like the executive is sitting on appeal. They have freedom of movement but this right is not absolute. If there is criminal allegation against them, court can restrict their movement from traveling abroad and that is what Judiciary did…
Kabiru Dayo: Selective justice, better than none
It is applicable, it is right anywhere in the world where democracy is practiced. In the recent time, something similar happened in the United States of America. So, Buhari has not violated any law. The only question now is that, is the order made with good intention? Something could be legal and lawful but could equally be malicious. We should remember that some of these people barred from traveling were inherited by Buhari. Court has collected passports of some of these people since the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. Alex Badeh and some others were caught with foreign currencies which they hid in reservoirs. Someone might be saying why is names of Iyiola Omisore, Musiliu Obanikoro not among the list. I believe selective justice is better than no justice at all. It could be selective, political but as far as I’m concerned, it is better. Even God doesn’t punish everybody at the same time. We should further ask, these 50 people, is their roles suspicious or not? Some of them are members of APC, PDP, some doesn’t even belong to any of these parties but business community. If name like Abubakar Atiku is there, we can relate it to politics. Orji Kalu is there and he’s one of those championing the campaign for the re-election of Buhari. No one has equally informed us that this list is the last, we should be expecting more. We won’t know if some of the personalities on the list have become sober then returned some funds, it is allowed. If such has happened, the names of such persons are now missing on the list, it is fine and good but some of them are in possession of our common wealth and they’re not giving back to the society.
Tunde Abdul Gegele: War on corruption succeeding
With the greatest respect, I will like to disagree with the point of argument that court should have made the order not the president. I sincerely believe that the war on corruption is going a long way and it is succeeding. I think the government is right in going further in it’s war against corruption by promogating executive order 6 which gives the investigator power to impound property until investigation is completed on the person alleged of corruption. It is a step in the right direction. I don’t see reason the PDP will be reacting now, I’m sure Buhari will not equally spare even his APC members accused of corruption.