Home Community Insights Revisiting Buhari’s Executive Order 8 As Graft Increases

Revisiting Buhari’s Executive Order 8 As Graft Increases

Revisiting Buhari’s Executive Order 8 As Graft Increases

In his apparent bid to strengthen the ongoing war against graft and allied matters, on Monday, 8th October 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari graciously endorsed a new executive order.

The order, tagged Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS), was targeted to tackle money laundering and tax evasion taking place within the shores of Nigeria.

It’s noteworthy that an executive order is a directive issued by the president that manages the affairs of a federal government and which automatically possesses the force of law. It originated from the United States of America (U.S.A).

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The major difference between a law and an executive order comes in how they are made. The former is required to go through the entire legislative process; it suffices to say that it must be approved by both chambers of the legislature as found in Nigeria and duly endorsed by the sitting president. By contrast, the latter does not have to pass through any of these procedures.

The legislative council isn’t meant to approve any executive order, nor can it overturn it. The worst it can do if it’s not pleased by the order, is to pass a law to cut funding for its implementation. But even then, the president has the constitutional power to veto such a proposed defunding law.

Executive orders are legally binding directives given by the president – as the head of the Executive Arm – to federal administrative agencies. They are generally used to direct the entities and its officials in their day-to-day thrive towards upholding the laws binding them, hence aimed at strengthening the viability of the affected laws, Acts or policies.

Fundamentally, an executive order is an official statement from the president about how the federal agencies he oversees are to use the resources and powers within their ambit. It falls under the broader umbrella of executive actions, which derive their power from the constitution, and it is the most formal executive action.

It’s therefore needless to state that the Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended, explicitly assigned the President the power to sign or veto the outcome of any legislation, command the country’s armed forces and other security apparatus, ask for the written opinion of any of his cabinet members when need be, convene or adjourn any Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, grant reprieves and pardons as well as receive ambassadors.

It’s noteworthy that orders from any court of competent jurisdiction constitutionally become binding and enforceable as law by the concerned court. In the same vein, in some circumstances, orders issued by any serving president equally carry the force of law. Hence, an executive order is deemed necessary when extant laws or policies become seemingly docile or inactive.

According to the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari, Mr. Garba Shehu, by the Executive Order 8, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and incomes are expected to – within a period of twelve months from the date it was endorsed – declare voluntarily those assets and pay accruable taxes on them. “When they do so, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits”.

He as well clarified that any taxpayer who takes advantage of this privilege would pay only a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets and income as well as obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offences and violations related to offshore assets, among others.

Offshore assets are investment strategies domiciled outside the investor’s home country. They are assets or monies being kept in a territory other than one’s country of residence. Poorly regulated offshore domiciles historically have served as havens for money laundering, tax evasion, or to conceal illicitly acquired assets from law enforcement bodies in the investor’s country.

Mr. Shehu further hinted that failure of any defaulting taxpayer to comply with the 12-month privilege shall at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world “pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries”.

To assert that the Executive Order 8 – likewise other allied ones earlier introduced – was a welcome development, is an understatement. It’s only a dummy that’s yet to realize that the two factors affected by the Executive Order 8 have overtime bedevilled Nigeria’s economy.

Aside from the fact that most individuals or entities who launder money cum other belongings are usually criminals, hence do so in order to conceal their ill-gotten wealth, those who genuinely acquired theirs have from the onset succeeded in not paying the taxes accruable to the assets involved. In other words, the latter equally deserved to be regarded as criminals.

As at the time the order in question was released, I vividly enjoined the Buhari-led government to tighten its seatbelt towards ensuring it was given all the required support. We can’t continue to beat about the bush when we are fully not unaware of the origin cum basis of our lingering economic plights. Therein, I equally urged the judiciary on its part to be helpful in ensuring that the prime purpose of the order was actualized.

It’s appalling that three years down the line, no one has been successfully prosecuted or convicted of these offences as contained in the Executive Order 8, after the 12-month ultimatum given to those concerned. Also, on a daily basis, incidence pertaining to graft is seemingly on the increase across Nigeria. One might then assert, who is then deceiving who?

No one ought to sit on the fence while we are fighting a monster that’s ravaging our common patrimony. 

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