Falana, Ozekhome, PDP Carpet FG on Travel Ban of Nigerians

  • We have not issued any list, says Presidency

Civil rights lawyers in the country as well as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have joined a host of opposition to the travel ban announced by the Federal Government, Saturday, on 50 prominent Nigerians as contained in the Executive Order 6 signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Federal Government has placed a foreign travel ban on no fewer than 50 high profile persons directly affected by Executive Order 6 (EO6).

The affected persons are already on the watch-list and are restricted from leaving the country pending the determination of their cases.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who confirmed this development in Abuja, Saturday, said this development followed the instant judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the EO6.

He said already President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to implement the Order in full force.

“To this end, a number of enforcement procedures are currently in place by which the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies have placed no fewer than 50 high profile persons directly affected by EO6 on watch-list and restricted them from leaving the county pending the determination of their cases.

“Also, the financial transactions of these persons of interest are being monitored by the relevant agencies to ensure that the assets are not dissipated and such persons do not interfere with, nor howsoever corrupt the investigation and litigation processes.

“It is instructive to note that EO6 was specifically directed to relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that all assets within a minimum value of N50 million or equivalent, subject to investigation or litigation are protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful means, pending the final determination of any corruption-related matter,’’ he added.

However, reacting to the development, Monday, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana frowned at the decision of the Federal Government to ban 50 high-profile Nigerians from travelling out of the country.

A statement released by Falana called for the immediate withdrawal of the ban, arguing that the move by the government is reminiscent of the days of military rule.

“For the umpteenth time, I am compelled to caution the Buhari administration to wage the war against the menace of corruption within the ambit of the rule of law,” he said.

“Since the 50 high-profile criminal suspects covered by EO6 (Executive Order 6) have been placed on watch list while their passports have been seized by either the anti-graft agencies or the courts, the travel ban slammed on them by President Buhari ought to be withdrawn without any delay.”

Falana noted that the move by the Federal government was uncalled for.

“Sadly, the travel ban is a sad reminder of the reckless placement of political opponents on security watch list and seizure of their passports by the defunct military junta.”

Similarly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rejected in its entirety, attempt by the Buhari Presidency to foist a full-blown fascism on our country, beginning with the placement of illegal travel restrictions on Nigerians.

The party said this draconian step is clearly targeted at members of the opposition parties, perceived political enemies of President Muhammadu Buhari, well-meaning Nigerians, including members of the business community, religious leaders, former political leaders and traditional rulers, who are perceived to be averse to President Buhari’s re-election bid.

The PDP further notes that this “decree” is a direct clampdown on our democratic order and an overthrow of rights of our citizenry as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

A statement by PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan, says “hope this is not a ploy to harm certain eminent Nigerians on the claims of resisting travel restrictions.

“The whole world can now see how fascism is fast taking over our democracy and judicial system and how the Buhari administration, by fiat, has directly ordered that citizens be secretly trailed, their movements and financial transactions restricted by government agencies, without recourse to due process of the law.

“While the PDP notes that the Buhari Presidency has gone into panic mode since the popular emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as PDP Presidential candidate and the spontaneous jubilation his emergence has evoked across the country, the party maintains that the resort to total clamp down on the opposition and our supporters will be totally unacceptable.

“What this means is that all Nigerians, particularly, opposition members, members of the business community and religious leaders, have become endangered and stand the risk of state violence under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.

The PDP, therefore, alerts the international community to hold the Buhari Presidency responsible should any harm befall any opposition leader, key members of the business community and religious leaders across the country as we march towards the 2019 general elections.

“Finally, the repositioned PDP invites all to note how the APC and the Buhari Presidency are pushing our nation to the brinks but restates that no amount of intimidation, harassment and foisting of fascism will deter Nigerians from their determination to rally on the platform of the PDP to oust the incompetent, anti-people and repressive APC administration, come 2019.”

Also, constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, By Dr Mike Ozekhome, SAN, described the recent announcement of the government’s ban on certain Nigerians as ‘an extreme panicky measure of desperation and obvious descent into totalitarianism, absolutism and fascism.’

“It is highly condemnable for being absolutely unconstitutional, illegal, wrongful, immoral, vindictive, dictatorial, panicky and presumptuous of the victims’ guilt, without any trial or conviction. The order shows a government wallowing in narcissistic, self-righteousness, brazen glorification and a false sense of redemptive messianism.

“It will surely boomerang on the government in this electioneering campaign period and strip the government bare of any pretensions towards democratic credentials. Presumably anchored on Executive Order 6, it made earlier in July, 2018, the recent clamp down on opposition elements and persons suspected to be against the desperate attempt by this government to cling to power at all cost is nothing but a draconian Decree, a piece of legislative enactment without a NASS and an unconstitutional judicial pronouncement outside the orbit of a court of competent jurisdiction. It is a vile coup against Nigerians, democracy and constitutionalism.

“The government by the order turned itself into a court of law to trail citizens, deprive of their freedom of movement and monitor and seize their accounts by fiat, without a valid court lose.

“The right to freedom of movement is guaranteed by section 41 of the 1999 Constitution, and same is not subject to derogation from by any Executive Order outside the pronouncement of a court of law. It dresses the Executive branch of government with the despotic garbs of arbitrariness, whimsicality and capriciousness, to determine which citizens should be prevented from traveling and have their accounts and properties attached.

“The Supreme Court of Nigeria, in Director of SSS v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (or 595) 340, quoted with approval, the Indian case of Meneka Ghandi v Union of India (1978) AIR 597, (1978) SCC (1) 248, where the Indian Supreme Court held, on Ghandi’s passport being seized, and he filing a writ of petition under Articles 21 and 32 of the Indian Constitution, that:

It would be recalled that government had on Saturday announcement that 50 prominent Nigerians had been placed on a watchlist and restricted from leaving the country based on Executive Order 6, which was issued by President Muhammadu Buhari in July, “pending the determination of their cases”.

A Federal High Court had in Abuja, Friday upheld the order, which, among other things, allows for the interim seizure of assets linked to investigation, ongoing criminal trials, and other related offences.

The Executive Order also empowers the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), in liaison with relevant investigative agencies, to temporarily seize properties linked with corruption, to prevent the dissipation of such assets.

Meanwhile, the Presidency has clarified that the Executive Order 6 (EO 6) is not a political weapon against opposition but part of revolutionary efforts to rid Nigeria of the menace of corruption.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, stated this in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.

The presidential aide was reacting to cross sections of divergence views on the commencement of the implementation of the EO6 by the federal government.

According to him, in the history of independent Nigeria, this is the first time any government is taking such a key decision to fight corruption.

Shehu dismissed the insinuation in some quarters that the activation of the EO 6 was targeted at some individuals or politicians in the country.

“EO 6 is not only revolutionary to the efforts to rid Nigeria of corruption but a manifestation of systemic changes that are required to make necessary adjustments as we carry on with the war against corruption.

“The very essence of the order is to make for speedy trials and conclusion of graft cases. The order is not politics and there is political gain behind its activation. These high profile cases we are talking about have been ongoing for between seven to 10 years with no end in sight. These cases were mostly originated by administrations other than this one.

“What is clear is that the access to these resources by the suspects has enabled them to be in a composition to sometime compromise investigation, prosecution and trial.’’

He further explained that, in most of the cases, the courts were held in a helpless position by legal acrobatics paid for from corrupt enrichment by the suspects.

He, therefore, expressed the hope that the new measures put in place would compel everyone involved to make for a speedy conclusion of these cases.

“If it is your money, you have it back. If it belongs to the public, it goes back to the treasury,’’ he said.

Shehu added that the question of the constitutionality of the restriction order had been answered by the fact that “a court of the land has given government a clean sheet.’’

“The Executive Order is legal and constitutional and therefore implementable. One of the cardinal objectives of the government under our constitution is to fight corruption. Fighting corruption is a responsibility and obligation upon the government,’’ he further maintained.

On the so-called list of those affected by the EO 6, the presidential aide said: “I want to confirm to you that we have not issued any list and we are not doing so. These cases that are well known and to say this or that name is on it will open the door to further accusations, including trial by media.

“The Immigration Service and other security agencies have the mandate of the President to carry out enforcement and they will do so giving due respects to individual rights, in line with the constitution.’’

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