Niyi Odebode, Olusola Fabiyi, Eniola Akinkuotu, Ade Adesomoju and Oladimeji Ramon
President Muhammadu Buhari’s travel ban on 50 Nigerians over the Executive Order 6, on Sunday attracted more condemnations.
The Peoples Democratic Party and the Coalition of United Political Parties had on Sunday slammed Buhari for the executive order, saying it was meant to cow opposition members.
But more Nigerians and groups including the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), the Coalition for Nigeria Movement led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a civil society group, Access to Justice, on Sunday lambasted the President, describing his action as draconian, clearly arbitrary, repressive and illegal.
Executive order’ll lead to capital flight, recession – Atiku
Atiku, in a statement by his media office in Abuja, warned that the Executive Order which was recently signed by Buhari would lead to capital flight and another recession.
He also said that the statement by the Presidency banning 50 unnamed Nigerians from travelling out of the country, purportedly on the strength of Executive Order 6, was undemocratic.
He described the travel ban as another form of intimidation ahead of the 2019 elections. Atiku said he abhorred any act of criminality, either financially or otherwise.
The presidential candidate, however, warned that the rule of law must be the guide at all times or society would descend into anarchy.
He said it was wrong for the President to act under a mere suspicion that the suspects were believed to have property overseas and were involved in tax dodging or other alleged financial infractions.
The statement partly read, “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 into 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 N16.7bn to the Osun State Government to facilitate the daylight electoral robbery.”
The former Vice-President said “the Nigerian constitution guarantees every Nigerian citizen freedom of movement and freedom of association.”
This constitutional right, he added, could not be taken away except by a court order.
Atiku said, “If the Buhari administration wants to curtail the rights of Nigerians, then it must go to court and obtain a court order. Anything short of this is unconstitutional and extrajudicial
“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.
“While delivering an address at the annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association on August 26, 2018, President Buhari has said ‘where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.’
“That was not only a faulty interpretation of the constitution, the statement also betrays the dictatorial and authoritarian mindset of President Buhari because only he gets to decide who and what threatens national security.”
Atiku recalled Buhari’s Decree Number Two of 1984, which he said, criminalised truth telling if it did not please the President.
He said that the recent action of the President merely showed that “dictators can grow old, but they can’t grow into democrats.”
Atiku said, “Under the Buhari administration, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented capital flight out of the nation to the extent that we are not even listed amongst 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 Peoples Democratic Party administration.
“Funnily enough, the Buhari administration was unable to stop Abdulrasheed Maina, their financier, from leaving the country after he was illegally brought back by them and reinstated to the federal service with double promotion.
“It is precisely this type of draconian orders that have chased investors away from Nigeria and it is precisely why Nigerians will chase this recession-friendly government away from power on February 16, 2019, so we can begin the job of Getting Nigeria Working Again.”
Executive order targeted at opposition – Obasanjo coalition
On its part, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo lambasted the Buhari-led Federal Government for imposing a travel ban on 50 politically-exposed persons.
The CNM said this in a statement by its Director, Strategic communications, Akin Osuntokun, on Sunday.
According to the coalition, the ban, which was done in line with Executive Order 6, was a subversion of the rule of law, reminiscent of military decrees.
The CNM also described the new executive order as an attempt to muzzle the opposition.
The CNM said Buhari had been planning to use security agencies to achieve a hidden agenda hence his decision to compromise the nation’s security architecture.
The statement read in part, “Recall that journalists were jailed on account of a similar decree that criminalised any reporting that embarrassed his government. Against this background, what the Executive Order 6 portends is a significant step towards the creation of a police state.
“It is also against this background that the personalisation of the national security architecture makes sense. Otherwise, there would have been no need to continue to reinforce the lopsided and parochial subversion and subordination of the security agencies to a personality cult agenda, at every available opportunity.”
It’s counterproductive to FG’s anti-graft war – SERAP
Also, an anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, also condemned the travel ban, warning that it would be counterproductive to the government’s anti-corruption campaign.
The group, in a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, contended that the ban was “clearly arbitrary, repressive and illegal,” demanding that the Federal Government should lift it immediately.
This was as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, argued that the travel ban was a usurpation of the power of the judiciary by the executive.
Ozekhome, who argued that the ban was targeted at the members of opposition political parties and voices critical of the Federal Government, described it as “an extreme panicky measure of desperation” by President Buhari ahead of the next year’s general elections.
SERAP, in its statement, argued that the travel ban violated both domestic and international laws that protect citizens’ human rights.
SERAP said, “The order banning 50 alleged high-profile corrupt Nigerians from travelling abroad without any legal basis and a judicial authorisation 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.
“Rather than performing its declared objective of preventing dissipation of stolen assets, the travel ban would seriously undermine the government’s expressed commitment to combat grand corruption and violate the country’s international human rights obligations.
“The travel ban will play right into the hands of high-profile corrupt officials by feeding into the narrative that the fight against corruption is targeted only at political opponents.”
On his own part, Ozekhome said the ban was a violation of the principle of separation of powers.
Falana, AJ ask Buhari to lift travel ban on 50 VIPs
Also, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and a civil society group, Access to Justice, faulted the travel ban.
Falana in a statement asked the President to immediately withdraw the travel ban, but Access to Justice called for the total cancellation of the entire PEO6, which it argued “is unquestionably anti-democratic and a veiled snare for citizens’ rights.”
“The PEO is also a gratuitous piece of dangerous precedent that opens the door to an uncontrollable dictatorship; it can be used arbitrarily and vindictively to fight and muzzle political opposition, and promote wholly politically-partisan objectives,” the Director of Access to Justice, Mr. Joseph Otteh, added in a statement on Sunday.
In separate statements on Sunday, Falana and Access to Justice, said the executive order could not be the basis for preventing suspects from travelling.
Falana described the travel ban as “superfluous” because either the court or the various anti-corruption agencies had already seized the passports of the affected persons.
He added that it was an “ingenious design to expose the Buhari administration to ridicule.”
He 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.”
He called on President Buhari to immediately withdraw the ban.
He said, “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.”
On its part, the Access to Justice, in rejecting the travel ban, called for the reversal of the PEO6 which it said could be vindictively used to fight and muzzle political opponents, and promote wholly politically-partisan objectives.
Otteh said in the statement that the judgment on which the Federal Government anchored the decision for the issuance of the travel ban, made it clear that the Attorney General of the Federation who is the coordinator of the implementation of the PEO6 could not deny owners access to their assets without a court order.
Its director said in a statement, “It is also legally warrantless; the government claims the judgment of Hon. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on the case involving PEO 6, gives it authority to bar the named persons.
“This is so very untrue: the judgment clearly required the government to implement PEO 6 in a way that is consistent with the rule of law; the court ruled that the government (Attorney General) could not block, freeze or confiscate any funds or assets without an order of court! If the government cannot take property without an order of court, how could it legitimately bar persons (presumed innocent by the law), from exercising their rights to liberty and movement without an order of court?
“Access to Justice requests the Federal Government to immediately rescind this obnoxious Executive Order.
“In its stead, we ask for Presidential Executive Orders that mandate all persons and authorities, in line with the constitution, to obey all orders and judgments of courts immediately, release all persons ordered by courts to be set free, as well as pay reasonable living (minimum) wages to all workers!”
Why I don’t care about my travel ban – Fani-Kayode
However, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, says he is not moved by the decision of the Buhari-led government to bar him from travelling.
Fani-Kayode said in a statement that his passport had been with the courts and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission since 2008 thereby making it impossible for him to travel.
The ex-minister, however, said he pitied those who needed medical attention but had also been placed on the list of 50 persons not allowed to travel.
He said, “I could not give a damn that my name is on the list of 50 members of the opposition and prominent Nigerians that have been placed on a travel ban because nothing that Buhari does surprises me.
“I have not left Nigeria since 2008 because my passport has been with the EFCC and the courts for the last 10 years and they have refused to give it to me and allow me to travel. Those on the travel-ban list that need to travel abroad for medical attention or to see their loved ones are the ones I feel sorry for.
“For me, travel ban or no travel ban, I have no intention of leaving Nigeria anytime soon because I am one of those that will be on the forefront in the struggle to liberate our country and ensure that we get Buhari out of power in the next few months.”
Fani-Kayode said Buhari had shown repeatedly that he was a despot and would do anything to muzzle the opposition in order to retain power.