- Summons AGF over assets confiscation policy
- Senate urges president to set up judicial panel of inquiry
Ndubuisi Orji and Fred Itua, Abuja
The National Assembly yesterday rejected the Executive Order 6, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, and urged the President to suspend its implementation, noting that it is similar to Decree 2 of 1984.
While the House of Representatives resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to investigate all the executive orders signed and other subsidiary legislations, the Senate asked the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, to appear before it to explain the constitutional basis for the order.
The House gave its Ad-hoc Committee four weeks to complete its assignment.
The House equally directed Malami and the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC), to make available to it a comprehensive list of all subsidiary legislations published in the Federal Government gazette within two weeks. He was also summoned to appear before the House.
This followed the adoption of a motion on “Urgent Need to Investigate the Constitutional Compliance of All Subsidiary Legislation and Executive Orders by the Executive Arm of Government,” sponsored by Nicholas Ossai and 25 oth- ers, under matters of urgent public importance.
However, immediately the motion, which generated a heated debate, with lawmakers shouting at one another was adopted, some All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers staged a walkout to protest the decision.
Ossai had argued that the Executive Order, which empowered government to restrict dealing on the assets of persons suspected of corruption, pending the outcome of investigation, was a violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and an attempt to usurp the powers of the legislature.
He noted: “History will remember you in 20, 30 years to come that the President on his own wrote a law and the House failed to challenge it.”
A member from Ondo, Bode Ayorinde, who introduced himself as a member of the Reformed APC, amid cheers from his colleagues said, the action of the President was an aberration.
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The section 4 has given the parliament the power to make law.
“A situation where the executive without combing other arms of government by way of executive order, we must rise against it, otherwise, there is no democracy. It should not be allowed.
“We should remind ourselves that we are in democracy. An executive bill can come here. But to now circumvent the rule of law will be an aberration,” he said.
One of those who opposed the motion, Mojeed Alabi, said the question of the legality or otherwise of the Executive Order 6 did not arise, noting that there were precedents.
While describing the motion as “hasty and premature,” the lawmaker said the only option open to the House was to approach the Supreme Court on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Senate while adopting the motion sponsored by the chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, David Umaru (APC), ordered Buhari to immediately set up Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCE), to investigate all cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by security agencies, particularly in the last three years when he assumed office.
It urged the President to put a stop to the violation of human rights across the country.
The Federal Government was also told to demonstrate practical commitment to the observance of the rule of law especially in ensuring obedience to court orders and following due process in fulfillment of its constitutional obligations.
Efforts by senators loyal to Buhari in APC to stop the debate failed as majority of senators said they believed that the parliament was the right place to debate threats to democracy.
Senator Jibril Barau from Kano State was of the opinion that some matters raised in the motion were already before the court.
He was overruled by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who argued that what the Senate was debating was not those issues in court, but violations of human rights and breaches of constitution.
Senator Enyinnayya Abaribe, who was just released by the Department of State Services (DSS), said it was unfortunate that some senators could take side with the executive arm of government.
Senator Shehu Sani, another APC member from Kaduna, warned that those who think they are favoured by this government might be victims in future if these abuses are sustained.
The Senate motion observed: “In the last few years, Nigeria’s democratic credentials had become questionable as a result of the alarming cases of alleged state-inspired human rights violations and consistent constitutional infractions perpetrated by agencies of government.
“It is alarming that in the recent past, allegations abound that the executive has not only consistently violated the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens particularly the rights to dignity of human person and right to personal liberty as guaranteed respectively under sections 34 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended but also infringed on the constitution in several ways.
“Notable instances of such human rights violations are well documented by the Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights organisations.”
It described as worrisome alleged “lack of accountability for human rights violations by security agencies and other militant elements including armed herdsmen; heavy-handed violent responses to peaceful protests as exemplified by previous crackdown on agitators for the Independent State of Biafra (IPOB) and the recent violent clashes between the police and suspected members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMM), who were protesting the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaki in Abuja and Kaduna respectively.”
The motion lamented what it termed as the “gradual descent of the country into anarchy and despotism as a result of indiscriminate arrests, unconstitutional detention of citizens under questionable circumstances as was the fate of the Senator representing Abia South, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who was whisked away by a detachment of DSS personnel while attending a function at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and later kept incommunicado for five days.
“It has become highly alarming that Nigeria’s democracy is also being threatened by deliberate and sustained executive assault on the Constitution as exemplified by some recent actions of the executive arm of government.”
It listed such actions to include “inadequate security protection for courts in the country which has indirectly undermined the independence of judiciary and exposed many judicial officers to violent attacks as was recently witnessed in Rivers State when some armed bandits in an attempt to overawe court officials stormed the Rivers State Judiciary Complex and maimed several people and killing several others;
“Release of $496 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States Government without prior approval by the National Assembly.”
The motion said all these actions were taken by the executive arm of government in direct contravention of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution.