The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday, defended the move by the legislature to strip the President of his power to order forfeiture of asset held by persons facing criminal prosecution.
He said it would deepen democracy and give all arms of government the chance to perform their duties without undue interference.
The National Assembly is proposing to strip the President of his power on asset forteiture and vests it in the judge of the High Court, who will now use his discretion to decide on whether to order the forfeiture.
Dogara spoke at the opening of a public hearing on the bill, which sought to amend the “Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act, 2004” at the National Assembly in Abuja.
The hearing was conducted by the House Committee on Banking/Currency chaired by Mr Chukwudi Jones-Onyereri.
The Speaker explained, “The discretionary powers being sought for the judge of the high court; it is essential in order to ensure that the course of justice is protected in the Nigerian socio-economic space.
“Currently, the powers for forfeiture are 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 responsibilities.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria and several operators in the financial sector supported the bill, urging the National Assembly to pass it speedily.
CBN’s Deputy Director, Mr Adedeji Lawal, who represented the apex bank, also suggested that the bill should be further amended to allow the court forward any forfeiture orders to the CBN governor in writing for implementation.
But, lawmakers observed that asking the judge to communicate the order in writing to the governor was not necessary as it could amount to meddling in court proceedings.