CBN, Others Back Removal of President’s Power on Assets Forfeiture

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•Dogara: Bill aimed at entrenching rule of law

•Senate to debate FG’s ‘constitutional breaches’

•Queries deployment of 30,000 policemen in Ekiti for poll

Deji Elumoye and James Emejo in Abuja

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other stakeholders Tuesday backed the ongoing moves by the National Assembly to amend the Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act, 2004 to remove the power of the president on assets forfeiture and transfer it to judges of the High Courts.

This is as the Senate resolved to debate allegations of constitutional and human rights violations by the federal government.

Speaking on the bill at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, the bank’s Deputy Director, Mr. Adedeji Lawal, further asked that the bill should be amended to direct the court to forward any forfeiture order to the CBN governor for compliance.

He argued that since the relevant section of the bill had been repealed, the CBN governor ought to be communicated by the court to implement the compliance order.

The committee, however, contended that the courts often would not like any form of meddling in their affairs.

The lawmakers said directing the court on what to do was tantamount to legislative anarchy which must be avoided.

At this point, Lawal, who represented the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, sought to know from the committee, to whom the court order would then be directed if not the CBN governor.

Members insisted that the decision would be left at the discretion of the judge to direct whoever to comply with the ruling.

Nevertheless, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Jones Chukwudi Onyereri (PDP, Imo), assured the deputy director that his concerns had been noted and that the committee would look into the issues at the committee level.

According to him, “Section 9(1) of the Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the phrase, “The president may in his discretion direct that…”with line 2, which says, “The judge of a High Court may after hearing the parties direct that…”

He said: “That means displacing the authority of the president to direct and moving it to the judge of the High Court. Section 9(2) of the Principal Act is deleted.”

He stated that the bill would be given expedited action so that President Muhammadu Buhari could pass it and pave the way for growth of the economy.

The House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said the move to remove the powers to forfeit assets from the president was to deepen democracy and adhere to the rule of law and separation of powers among the arms of government.

He said the development would further improve the investment environment in the country.

Speaking while declaring the hearing open, he said: “The discretionary powers being sought for the judge of the high court; it’s essential in order to ensure that the course of justice is protected in the Nigeria socio-economic space.

“Currently, the powers for forfeiture is vested in the president which invariably usurps the prerogative of the judiciary to adjudicate and give ruling among others.

“For democracy to be truly deepened, all the three arms of government need to be deepened to effectively perform their constitutional responsibility.”

Essentially, there was no dissenting voice over the bill from all stakeholders present, except for the few observations by Lawal.

The Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Mrs. Patience Oniha, restrained herself from speaking to the bill understandably as it concerns the president. But she didn’t oppose it nonetheless.

Other stakeholders present included representatives of the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and officials from the AFRI-EXIM Bank.

The hearing also considered two other bills, namely, a bill for an Act to establish Factoring Assignment Act, in order to promote availability of capital and credit and to facilitate domestic and international trade and for other related matters; as well as a bill for an Act to repeal the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (Guarantee) Act and for other related matters.

Senate to Debate FG’s ‘Constitutional Breaches’

The Senate Tuesday resolved to debate allegations of constitutional and human rights violations by the federal government.

The debate should have been conducted Tuesday but for the unavoidable absence of the lead promoter of the motion, Senator David Umaru.

Umaru is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

The enactment of the controversial Executive Order No. 006 as an Executive legislation, which allows security agents to freeze suspicious assets without recourse to court and the continuous detention of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), in total disregard of court orders, were listed for debate by the senators.

The issues were listed in a motion titled: “Alarming rise in cases of alleged human rights violations and consistent assault on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution by the Executive.”

The controversial Executive Order was listed as the Senate’s first Order of the Day and Umaru was to lead the debate before it was suspended.

Although the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, read the Order to signal the commencement of the debate, the absence of the motion’s sponsor forced the Senate to suspend the debate till another legislative day.

The breaches to be probed include, continuous detention of a former NSA, Dasuki, for over two years in total disregard of over four court orders, including that of the ECOWAS Court which granted him bail pending his trial over money laundering charges; continuous incarceration of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) also known as Shiite, Sheik lbrahim El-Zakzaki, for over two years contrary to an order of the Federal High Court which ordered his release in 2016; and the 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 Indigenous People of Biafra (IP0B) and the recent violent clashes between the police and suspected members of the IMN who were protesting the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaki, in Abuja and Kaduna respectively.

…Queries Deployment of 30,000 Policemen in Ekiti for Poll

Also Tuesday, a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Police Act CAP P18 LFN 2004 and enact the Police Reform and for related matters, 2018(SB.682) sponsored by Senator Bala Na’Allah (Kebbi South) passed the second reading.

Na’Allah while leading the debate frowned on government sending 30,000 policemen for the Ekiti State governorship election coming up on Saturday.

He wondered why government that could not deploy enough policemen to curb incessant attacks and killings across the country could at this period in time mobilise policemen of that magnitude for an election in one state.

While canvassing for the support of his colleagues for the bill, Na’Allah emphasised: “We cannot envisage any meaningful reforms of the Nigeria Police without first reforming the legal infrastructure under which it operates.”

According to him, the bill is a crucial step to reforming the Nigeria Police to make it amenable to the demands and expectations of an independent and democratic country.

The bill, he further said, would be a major contributor to the absolute panacea to the nation’s policing problems.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over Tuesday’s plenary, thanked Na’Allah for the ingenuity he brought to bear on the sponsorship of the bill.

The bill subsequently passed the second reading in readiness for a public hearing to be fixed by the Senate Committee on Police Affairs.