Two lawyers who are challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order Six, have appealed the October 11 ruling of an Abuja division of the Federal High Court which validated the order.
The lawyers, in an application brought before the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Monday, are asking the court to set aside the lower court’s decision and stop further plans by the presidency to execute the controversial order.
The federal government recently announced the order which empowers the government to seize assets allegedly obtained fraudulently by some Nigerians. Following the announcement, the applicants, Ikenga Ugochinyere and Kenneth Udeze, approached the lower court.
In a ruling by a judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, on October 11, the judge said the controversial order does not amount to an infringement of the rights of Nigerians to own properties, as alleged by the lawyers.
The judge ruled that the constitution allows the federal government to implement executive policies, so long as the policies do not affect the doctrine of separation of powers.
The court also directed the executive to ensure such assets are only seized after a court order is obtained.
Following the court ruling, the presidency announced a travel ban on 50 Nigerians with assets worth over N50 million, suspected to be proceeds of illicit wealth.
The government explained that the directive was made to prevent the targeted Nigerians from fleeing and further prolonging their cases in court.
In the recent appeal, the lawyers argue that the October 11 court order is a clear violation of the rights of Nigerians.
They also said the decision of the lower court does not empower the federal government to institute the recent travel ban.
According to the applicants, the travel ban is a deliberate attempt to usurp the powers of the courts of law and a deviation from democracy.
They argue that the lower court erred in law when it ruled that the executive order six did not violate the rights of Nigerians to own properties.
The recent appeal also seeks to establish that the lower court failed in its responsibility to properly analyse the executive order six, which the applicants believe is in violation of the principle of fair hearing.
According to the lawyers, the lower court was not obliged by law to advice government or Nigerians on what the implications of executive order six ought to have been.
They submitted that the court was only expected to interpret it in relation to section five of the constitution, upon which the order was based.
The claimants argue that; “the lower court deliberately strayed from the issues submitted to it for determination by issuing advisory opinions in the exercise of the powers of the second respondent; viz-a-vis the execution of executive order six, thereby unilaterally advancing the patently weak case of the respondents.”
The first respondent in the suit is President Muhammadu Buhari while the second is the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
More lawyers condemn executive order, travel ban
Meanwhile, more lawyers have continued to condemn the executive order six and the recent travel ban by the federal government.
In a further reaction to previous stance taken against the travel ban by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and other groups, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, says the recent ban is an attempt by Mr Buhari to move Nigeria towards tyranny in a democratic government.
“The recent announcement of the government’s ban on certain Nigerians (yet publicly unnamed) is an extreme panicky measure of desperation and obvious descent into totalitarianism, absolutism and fascism. It is highly condemnable for being absolutely unconstitutional, illegal, wrongful, immoral, vindictive, dictatorial, panicky and presumptuous of the victims’ guilt, without any trial or conviction.
“Presumably anchored on Executive Order 6, it made earlier in July, 2018, the recent clamp down on opposition elements and persons suspected to be against the desperate attempt by this government to cling to power at all cost is nothing but a draconian Decree, a piece of legislative enactment without a NASS and an unconstitutional judicial pronouncement outside the orbit of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
In a similar opinion, another lawyer, Frank Tietie, says the travel ban is an attempt by the presidency to set Nigerians against each other and a witch-hunt for political enemies.
“By the proclamation of placing travel ban on unnamed individual Nigerians, the administration has again set in motion the business of witch hunting and castigation of perceived opponents.
“The things that unite a people, and cause them to pay allegiance to a country include the belief in the sense of justice and the protection they derive from being citizens.
“On the contrary, the president and his party have governed by separation and division of the people, hopefully to gain political advantage. President Buhari’s approach, therefore, has been the application of the privilege of governance to make dissenters appear very bad so that he, his administration and party may appear very good.”