More than half a trillion naira is currently locked in several corruption cases pending in courts, the Nigerian government has said.
Nigerian minister of information, Lai Mohammed said this while defending the legality of Executive Order Six recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
" For starters, this executive order will immediately affect 155 high-profile corruption cases. The aggregate value of funds involved in these ongoing cases is N595,409,838,452.25," Mohammed said.
"This is a huge amount by any standard. It is higher than the N500bn allotted to the administration’s Social Investment Programme in the 2018 budget and the N344bn allocated for the construction and rehabilitation of roads nationwide in the 2018 budget.”
The government said the order is aimed at restricting dealings in suspicious assets that are under investigation for corruption.
With it in place, the government said, persons under investigations are less likely to use illicit funds to influence cases pending in courts.
"Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 aims to, among others, restrict dealings in suspicious assets subject to investigation or inquiry bordering on corruption in order to preserve such assets from dissipation, and to deprive alleged criminals of the proceeds of their illicit activities which can otherwise be employed to allure, pervert and/or intimidate the investigative and judicial processes," the minister explained.
Critics said the order was unconstitutional and was an affront against the judiciary.
Mohammed, however, insisted it was signed in order to make Buhari's anti-corruption drive more bitting.
The Buhari government came into power on the wings of promises to reposition the country by fighting corruption, improving security and remodelling the economy. The much-vaunted anti-graft war is, however, seen as lopsided and ineffectual by the opposition.
But two recent high profile convictions have given the government a bit of bounce. A former Plateau State governor Joshua Dariye and that of Taraba state Jolly Nyame were sent to jail for embezzling public funds.
However, cases involving Patience Jonathan, the wife of Buhari's predecessor and former minister of petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke are still pending with large-scale forfeitures in favour of the government already made.