The Federal Government said yesterday it had no plans to release the names of those on the travel ban placed on some 50 high profile Nigerians.
This came as outrage against the travel ban continued yesterday from presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; Elder statesman and Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba; Human Rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP; Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, among others.
Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed; and National Chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, however, gave thumbed up the ban, saying the measure would boost the ongoing war against graft.
No public list yet — Presidency
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who disclosed this in a statement last night, said: ‘’On the so-called list you asked for confirmation, I want to confirm to you that we have not issued any list and we are not doing so.’’
He also said the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari, inherited the list from previous administrations.
Continuing, Shehu said: ‘’In the history of independent Nigeria, this is the first time any government is taking such a key decision to fight corruption.
‘’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 political and there is political gain behind its activation.
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‘’These high profile cases we are talking about have been ongoing for between seven and 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. In most of the cases, the courts are held in a helpless position by legal acrobatics paid for from corrupt enrichment by the suspects.
‘’The new measures put in place should 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.
‘’The question of the constitutionality of the restriction order is 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.
‘’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 Immìgration 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.’’
Meanwhile, kudos and hard knocks, yesterday, continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’stravel ban on 50 high profile Nigerians, weekend, via his Executive Order 6 signed in July.
Only court can restrict one’s movement – NLC President
Kicking against the ban, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said: “Essentially, it is about the rule of law. And in our legal jurisprudence, everybody is presumed innocent until the court says otherwise. If you accused any person of corruption, you take the person to court. It can be the pronouncement of the court to seize the person’s travel documents. Until the court pronounces anybody guilty, you can’t restrict his or her movement. Using shortcut cannot assist or help our system.”
It’s in order – Junaid Mohammed
To Dr Junaidu Muhammad, there is nothing wrong with the travel ban as long as it is legal.
“The question to be asked is, if it is legal. Does the President have the power to do that? If you are not satisfied, you go to court. I don’t see any reason we will say because some VIPs are involved, the order shouldn’t have been passed. If anybody has issues, then it should be on the legality of the order,” he explained.
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It’ll plunge Nigeria into another recession, dictatorship – Atiku
The PDP presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, also warned against the implementation of Executive Order 6 (EO6), saying it was capable of triggering capital flight out of the country and plunging the country into dictatorship as witnessed during President Buhari’s military era as head of state.
Arguing that the ban was also tailored to cow opponents, ahead of the 2019 general elections, Atiku, in a statement by his campaign organisation, said all instruments intended to promote good governance must conform with the rule of law and constitutional provisions.
The statement read: “Under the Buhari administration, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented capital flight out of the nation, to the extent that we are not even listed among the top 10 recipients of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in the latest ranking by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It is salient to note that we were number one under the last PDP administration.
“We must be unequivocal in saying that we abhor any act of criminality, financially or otherwise, but the rule of law must be our guide at all times or society will descend to anarchy.
‘’Thus, we find it most undemocratic that in a nation governed by the rule of law, a president, who swore an oath to abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, does this.
“If past events are to be the judge, these 50 individuals will conveniently be critics and opponents of the Buhari administration. This is nothing short of intimidation ahead of the 2019 elections.
“This is what the Buhari administration did in Osun where they froze the accounts of the Adeleke family and then illegally and clandestinely paid ¦ 16.7 billion to Osun State government to facilitate daylight electoral robbery.
Freedom of movement
“The Nigerian Constitution guarantees every Nigerian citizen freedom of movement and freedom of association. This Constitutional right cannot be taken away except by a court order.
“If the Buhari administration wants to curtail the rights of Nigerians, then they must go to court and obtain a court order. Anything short of this is unconstitutional and extra-judicial.
“This sudden dictatorial act brings to mind President Buhari’s comments for which he was condemned by the international community and by the generality of Nigerians.
““It is precisely this type of draconian orders that have chased investors away from Nigeria.”
Obasanjo, Atiku, Saraki, others’re real targets – Timi Frank
Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Timi Frank, said former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida; Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Atiku Abubakar were the main targets of the executive order.
In a statement, Frank listed other people being targeted to include General Mohammed Gusua, General Theophilus Danjuma, Pastor David Oyedepo, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Sheik Gumi, monarchs and business men and women, who are sympathetic to Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition. According to him, the main purpose of the EO6 is to weaken the leaders of opposition political parties, ahead of the 2019 general polls.
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It’s a punitive measure against those who destroyed Nigeria – Chewas Okorie
However, Chief Chekwas Okorie hailed the move saying: “When he (Buhari) issued that order, it was challenged in court and the court made a pronouncement that he was right to give the order. The time he gave the order is inconsequential here. We are talking about fighting corruption.
‘’If a person is corrupt, he is corrupt. Is there any specific time corruption should be fought or time it should be allowed? As far as it is in accordance with the law, then it is welcome.
“I took time to read that court judgment on the executive order and I think its a good idea. I have always supported the order as a punitive measure for those who put us in this critical condition as a nation.
‘’Some said recession started three years ago under President Buhari but they forgot that some people laid the foundation for the poverty many Nigerians are facing now. We are talking about only 50 people out of 200 million Nigerians.
‘’Not that they are going to jail, their movement is being restricted until their matter is resolved in court and they are shouting as if the whole country is in prison. I am in total support of it because from the very day President Buhari came to office, this was one of the three demands UPP requested from him, which is to fight corruption with every means that is available and this is the one of it. Although it’s coming late but I am glad that this is a special time for fighting corruption.”
Why Buhari must withdraw travel ban – Falana
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, picked holes in the ban and urged the President to reverse it.
In a statement, Falana said: “If the Federal Government had done some background check, it would have discovered that the names of the 50 VIPs have long been placed on security watch list while their passports have been impounded by the anti-graft agencies or the courts as one of the conditions for admitting them to bail.
“It is public knowledge that whenever the defendants wish to travel abroad for medical treatment, they usually apply for the interim release of their passports. Since the courts have taken judicial notice of the perilous state of medical facilities in the country, such applications are usually granted.
“Notwithstanding such judicial indictment of politically exposed persons seeking medical treatment during trial, the law has not authorised the Executive to restrict the movement of criminal suspects.
“In February 2009, the Federal Government directed all Nigerian embassies and high commissions not to renew the passports of Messrs Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El Rufai (now Kaduna State governor) on account of intra-class feud. Both of them were then living in exile.
“But as soon as the attention of former President Umaru Yar’ Adua was drawn to the case of the Director-General, State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (supra), he ensured that the illegal directive was immediately withdrawn.”
He’s an irredeemable dictator—Ayo Adebanjo
Condemning the travel ban, Chief Ayo Adebanjo accused the President of being an irredeemable dictator.
He said: “It is condemnable, his dictatorial tendencies are just coming out. These are all the things I said about him before the 2015 elections. If anybody is surprised, I am not surprised. It is left for those who are still blind to open their eyes. I cannot give any other warning than what I am giving to the people now. I have nothing to hide, the man (Buhari) is an irredeemable dictator.”
Travel ban is illegal, oppressive – SERAP
Similarly, SERAP said: “The order banning 50 alleged high-profile corrupt Nigerians from traveling abroad without any legal basis and a judicial authorization is clearly arbitrary, repressive and illegal, as it breaches constitutional rights and the country’s international obligations, which protect the rights to freedom of movement, to leave one’s country, to privacy, and to due process of law.”
“A travel ban by its nature is an interference with the right to leave one’s country. It is neither necessary nor proportionate to prevent dissipation of stolen assets or stop politically exposed persons, PEPs, from tampering with any such assets. The ban should be immediately lifted and the order rescinded,”
The group said in statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale. added that the travel ban would play right into the hands of high-profile corrupt officials by feeding into the narrative that the fight against corruption was targeted only at political opponents, distract the authorities from taking legitimate action to recover stolen assets, effectively punish high-ranking corrupt officials and portray the government as unwilling to embrace the rule of law in its fight against corruption, thereby making it difficult to obtain the necessary support and cooperation of countries keeping stolen assets.
“If the objective the government seeks to achieve is to ensure stolen assets are not dissipated or that politically exposed persons do not interfere with ongoing investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, the appropriate legal response is for the authorities to pursue orders of temporary forfeiture and mutual legal assistance, and not a travel ban that would achieve nothing but violate citizens’ human rights.”
It’s uncalled for – Afenifere
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said the travel ban was uncalled for.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “It is a dissent into full blown dictatorship for an elected president to start doing like a military ruler who ignores the constitution and due process.
‘’It is only a court of law that can make such pronouncement to seize people’s passport. There is no where in our constitution where a democratically elected president can do such as thing. It is authoritarian, totalitarian and abuse of office by a president who swore to uphold the constitution.
‘’Until a citizen is found to be guilty by a court f law, he or she is still innocent and is entitled to his right as a citizen. It is totally uncalled for and all democratic forces should rise against this.”
It’s return of jackboot governance – Middle Belt group
The Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, said the travel ban was equivalent to the return of jackboot democracy in Nigeria because “the Order is illegal, arbitrary, dictatorial, obnoxious, unconstitutional and a recipe for crisis.”
In a statement in Makurdi, Convener of the MBMJP, Joe Bukka, wondered why the President Buhari-led APC had resorted to making a mockery of the dictates of the rule of law in a bid to get at perceived political enemies.
“No doubt, this government is deliberately taking us back to the era of jackboot governance, an era where the constitutional rights and privileges of Nigerians are not respected, rule of law is stampeded and negated and our law courts encumbered from performing their constitutional duties,’’ he said.