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TRAVEL BAN: Atiku, Falana, Ozekhome, Fani-Kayode react



TRAVEL BAN: Atiku, Falana, Ozekhome, Fani-Kayode react

Some prominent Nigerians, including politicians and legal practitioners, have added their voice to the widespread reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s travel ban on 50 persons with alleged corruption cases.

Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), condemned the travel ban.

In a statement issued on his behalf by his campaign organisation, Abubakar said the ban is a throwback to the notorious “evil decree two” of 1984 enacted by the military government under Buhari.

He said the ban is a clampdown on citizens’ fundamental rights.

“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,” the statement read.

“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.

“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.”

The Atiku campaign organisation asked the Buhari administration to go to court “if it wants to curtail the rights of Nigerians” as “anything short of this is unconstitutional and extrajudicial”.

“This sudden dictatorial act is a throwback to Buhari’s evil Decree Number Two of 1984 which criminalised truth telling if it did not please Buhari, proving that dictators can grow old, but they can’t grow into democrats,” it said.

“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.”

Also reacting, Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the travel ban must be withdrawn “without any delay”.

In a statement on Sunday, Falana said the directive which is backed by an executive order signed by the president is an “ingenious design to expose the Buhari administration to ridicule”.

He said the executive arm of government is not empowered under the law to restrict the movement of criminal suspects.

Falana said only the anti-corruption agencies and courts have the right to restrict movement of individuals under investigation.

The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) cited various instances in the past where top government officials and other prominent individuals, including himself, were placed on watchlists by the ruling government.

He said an application for interim release of passports by some individuals under trial is usually granted for medical reasons, with the exception of “indigent accused persons standing trial for stealing, fraud or other economic crimes in Nigerian courts”.

Read also: Buhari’s travel ban on 50 high-profile Nigerians illegal, repressive, says SERAP

“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,” he said.

“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.

“The power of the anti graft agencies and the courts to place criminal suspects on watch list or subject their passports to temporary seizure has never been in doubt.

“To that extent, the directive to place the 50 high profile suspected persons on watch list and restrict their movement is highly superfluous, completely unwarranted and totally uncalled for.

“In fact, it is an ingenious design to expose the Buhari administration to ridicule.

“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.

“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.

“Since the 50 high profile criminal suspects covered by EO6 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.”

On his part, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation and chieftain of the PDP who is reportedly on the list, says he is not disturbed about his reported inclusion.

Fani-Kayode said he has not been able to travel out of the country since 2008, as his passport had been seized.

The ex-minister said he has no intention of leaving the country any time soon while expressing sympathy for those on the list who may require foreign medical attention.

“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,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“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.

“By God’s grace in February we will flush him and his incompetent, fascistic, mendacious, divisive, corrupt, abusive, vicious and genocidal government down the toilet and send them back to hell where they belong.”

Lending his voice to the development, rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the ban is a violation of the principle of separation of powers.

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

“It seeks to strike terror and fear in the minds of Nigerians, especially the opposition and critical voices.

“It usurps the functions of a court of law and the National Assembly has already promulgated the EFCC, ICPC and Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, all of which allow for interim forfeiture and attachment of citizens’ money and properties, but with an order of a court of law.”


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