The founder of DAAR Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation before the Federal High Court in Abuja over executive order number 6 of 2018 signed recently by the President.
In the suit, which has the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed and Ambassador Bello Abba Mohammed also as co-plaintiffs, the plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of the order.
The president had signed an Executive Order to improve the fight against corruption by his administration. The order seeks to restrain owners of assets under investigation from carrying out any further transaction on such assets.
Specifically, the new law targets the assets of no fewer than 11 former governors, ministers and other politically exposed persons, who served in the country between 1999 and 2015.
In their originating summons filed on their behalf by Kanu Agabi (SAN), the plaintiffs want the court to determine whether having regard to the 1999 Constitution which provides for separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the judiciary, and the right to be presumed innocent, the federal government can seek the forfeiture of the properties of a person yet to be convicted by the court.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the Executive Order 6 issued by the president, which stigmatises them as corrupt and labels their assets as proceeds of corruption liable for forfeiture is unlawful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever, having regard to the fact that the said order constitutes an attempt by the president to exercise to the detriment of the plaintiffs judicial and legislative powers not vested in him by the constitution.
They argued that Section 15(5) of the Constitution which the presidential order purports to rely on only comes into effect when the National Assembly has made a law giving effect to it, adding that there is no power in the president to give effect to the section through a law or an order made by himself.
They prayed the court for an order nullifying the executive order on the grounds that it constitutes a negation of the presumption of innocence of the plaintiffs until proven guilty by due process of law as guaranteed by the constitution.
The plaintiffs argued that the order is a breach of of the principle of separation of powers under the constitution and constitutes an attempt at ruling by decree.
They stated that the order encroaches on the judicial powers vested in the courts by the constitution in purporting to affect cases pending in the court of law.
The plaintiffs also averred that executive order ties the hand of the courts by branding their assets as proceeds of corruption before seeking the order of the court to save the assets from dissipation.
Contending that the executive order was issued in disregard of the rule of law which cannot be subordinated to concern about corruption, the plaintiffs said it negates the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the constitution.
They added that the rule of law is central to democracy and any concern about corruption must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the law.