Atiku, Falana, lawyers say ban on 50 Nigerians is unconstitutional

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The former vice president noted that judging by past events, the 50 Nigerians affected by the travel ban might just be critics of the Buhari administration.

A wave of denunciation and wild criticism have trailed the plan by the Federal Government to place travel ban on 50 high profile Nigerians as part of its anti-graft measure under the Presidential Executive Order Number 6.

Former vice president and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections, Abubakar Atiku, Femi Falana, Mike Ozekhome, both SANs, Kayode Ajulo, chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF), Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman and others described it as unconstitutional, undemocratic, illegal, repressive and retrogressive.

Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu who made the announcement, said the unnamed individuals will be banned from travelling outside the country pending the determination of their corruption cases in order to ensure that all assets within a minimum value of N50 million or equivalent, are not dissipated or tampered with.

This followed a Federal High Court ruling which upheld the constitutional validity of the controversial EO6 issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on July.

Names of those on the watchlist, however, have not been published.

But Atiku, in statement by his campaign organisation, yesterday, said the ban was a violation of the right to freedom of movement as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended), which President Buhari vowed to uphold.

According to him, the constitutional right of any person could only be taken away by the court of law.

He said inasmuch as he abhorred any form of criminality, the country must be guided by the rule of law, at all times.

The former vice president further noted that judging by past events, the 50 Nigerians affected by the travel ban might just be critics and opponents of the Buhari administration.

The statement 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 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 N16.7 billion to the Osun State government to facilitate daylight electoral robbery.

“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 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.”

Atiku added that EO6 was a fresh attempt to take the nation back to the military era of 1983, when Buhari ruled as military head of state.

“It 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.

“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 ten 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.

“Funny enough, the Buhari administration were 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.

READ ALSO: Why no disciplinary action against Abdulrasheed Maina yet – Oyo-Ita
“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, prominent lawyer, Chief Ozekhome described the ban as “high-handed, obnoxious, barbaric, pristine, capricious, whimsical and arbitrary as it violently erodes hallowed fundamental rights that are inalienable and God-given.”

The human rights activist submitted that the action of the Federal Government was a plot to strike terror and fear in the minds of Nigerians, especially the opposition and critical voices.

The EO6, he said, would usurp the functions of a court of law and the National Assembly that has already promulgated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Money Laundering Acts, all of which allow for interim forfeiture and attachment of citizens’ money and properties,but with an order of a court of law.

He further submitted that it violates the doctrine of separation of powers ably propounded in 1778 (sections 4,5,6 of the 1999 Constitution ) by Baron de Montesquieu, the rule of law as espoused by Prof. A,V Dicey and all tenets of constitutional democracy.

“That was what Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu said in her judgment.She made it clear that although Executive Order no 6 was not itself wrong, but that the Attorney General of the Federation must first obtain an order of court under section 174 of the Constitution and that the enforcement of the order must never derogate from the rule of law or derogate from the doctrine of separation of powers or the fundamental rights of Nigerians. No one has ever doubted the legality of Executive Orders, which are regularly issued by American presidents, wherefrom we borrowed our presidentialism, but same must conform with laid down procedure, due process citizens’ rights, and rule of law. That is the way to go.”

In his reaction, Falana said the travel ban was reminder of the reckless placement of political opponents on security watch list and seizure of their passports by the defunct military junta.

He said it was a settle matter in the case between Director-General, State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) that the right of citizens to freedom of movement guaranteed by section 41 of the Constitution and article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement)Act could not be abridged or abrogated by the Executive outside the procedure permitted by law.

Another lawyer, Dr. Ajulo said it was unconstitutional for a democratic government to restrain a citizen from his right to free movement without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“It is all the more frightening that there are no names mentioned and a blanket statement was made to
cover all citizens having N50 million or above. One cannot but wonder if this latest draconian order is not targeted at perceived political enemies and members of the opposition.

“This Executive Order 06 is reminiscent of the infamous and draconian Decree No 4 of 1984 which was cruelly pursued and enforced by the incumbent president who was the military head of state at the time. Without a doubt, the obnoxious decree was one of the sore points of that administration in which the basic human rights of Nigerians were thrown to the dogs.

“I earnestly believe and hope that the Court will rise up yet again to take up its position as the bastion of democracy.

A chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman, said the exercise amounted to muzzling the country’s democracy.

Abdulrahman said the timing was wrong, as the ban may rob the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the president of returning to power in 2019.

“People across the country will start to give meaning and different interpretations to the travel ban, and this will not be good for the reelection of the president.

“Many people will see it as being targeted at the opposition party members. I think whoever is advising Mr. President in this regard is not being fair to him at all,” he said.

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