The President Buhari administration has broken a few records: record unemployment rate, record poverty rate and the world’s largest rice pyramids. But one other little-known trail-blazing feat of his government is how much he loves an executive order. Before you ask, no, it has nothing to do with the Peaky Blinders.
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, none of its three presidents before Buhari signed an executive order. But the former military dictator from Daura has signed 11 since 2015.
Best in Signing.
What’s an executive order?
There’s no precise judicial definition of what an executive order is but think of it as a wuru-wuru-to-the-answer kind of legislation. Before a law is passed, it has to go through a lawmaking process in the National Assembly. This lawmaking process can take months or years before it lands on the president’s table.
On the other hand, an executive order is a shortcut to this long process. A president can use it to issue a directive without going through the painful process of begging the National Assembly for approval.
How useful is an executive order?
Even though executive orders allow a president to shortcut legislative review, they still need to not clash with established laws, especially the constitution. For example, the Buhari administration ran into problems when Executive Order 10 violated this principle.
It’s important to note that the signing of executive orders is fairly new in Nigeria’s political establishment, so there’s not a lot of material on its inner workings. But we know it largely follows the format of the American system.
Basically, an executive order is used to manage the operations of the Federal Government. It’s a document the president uses to give teeth to certain policies.
Here’s a rundown of all 11 executive orders signed by President Buhari’s administration.
Executive Order (EO) 1
While Buhari was on his record-breaking 103-day medical leave in London in 2017, his vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, signed the administration’s first four executive orders while he was acting president. He signed the first three executive orders on May 18th 2017.
Executive Order 1 addressed the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the Nigerian business environment. It was designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in the country.
This executive order mandated the timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all government agencies.
This executive order addressed support for local content in public procurement. All Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government were directed to grant preference to local manufacturers of goods and service providers.
This executive order addressed the Federal Government’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS). The government offered tax amnesty to taxpayers who hadn’t been fulfilling their tax obligations. Defaulters were asked to regularise their tax affairs before March 2018.
This is the fourth and final executive order signed by Osinbajo as acting president on June 29th 2017.
And it was the last time he was ever acting president
This order was Buhari’s debut, signed on February 6th 2018. With Executive Order 5, Buhari ordered government agencies to give preference to Nigerian companies and firms over foreigners when awarding contracts. The order also stopped the Ministry of Interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria.
This executive order addressed the preservation of suspicious assets connected with corruption. The order allowed the government to assume control of assets linked to ongoing criminal investigations and trials. Buhari signed the order on July 5th 2018.
This executive order enabled private sector entities to construct and refurbish roads across Nigeria in exchange for tax benefits from the government. Buhari signed the order on January 25th 2019.
This executive order provided a 12-month period of grace for Nigerian taxpayers to voluntarily declare and pay tax on their offshore assets through the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS). In exchange, they wouldn’t be prosecuted for tax offences and offences related to offshore assets.
Buhari signed the order on October 8th 2018.
Buhari used this order to mandate that Nigeria must become open defecation-free by 2025.
The order directed that all public places including schools, fuel stations, places of worship, market places and hospitals must have accessible toilets within their premises. Buhari signed the order on November 20th 2019.
With this order, Buhari directed the financial independence of the state legislature and judiciary whose purse strings are controlled by their governors. The president signed the order on May 22nd 2020, but the Supreme Court nullified it on February 11th 2022. The court ruled that the order violated the principles of the separation of powers set by the constitution.
This order addressed the maintenance of national public buildings. Buhari directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government (MDAs) to set up maintenance departments and make them functional to preserve government assets. Buhari signed the order on April 6th 2022.
Since executive orders are fairly new to Nigeria’s dispensation, it’s still difficult to appropriately measure their implementation and impact. As things currently stand, no one really knows if executive orders change things significantly, but they’re provocative. One thing we do know for certain is that Buhari loves signing them as much as he loves flying to London.