Travel Ban, Throwback to Dark Ages of Dictatorship, Says Atiku

Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, Presidential candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP)

• Falana, Fani-Kayode, Bafarawa, Alao-Akala dismiss it as unlawful

Tobi Soniyi in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Ademola Babalola in Ibadan

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has described the travel ban on 50 unnamed prominent Nigerians as a throwback to the dark days of dictatorship when President Muhammadu Buhari held forth as a military head of state, saying it was a reminder of the draconian Decree 2 of 1984.

Atiku’s critique of the full implementation of Executive Order 6, signed by Buhari recently, had the backing of human right activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who said it was an unlawful act, as well as some of the victims of the directive, including former minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; and former governors Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto) and Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), who said they could not be bothered because it was politically motivated.

Atiku in a statement yesterday by his campaign organisation, said while he abhorred no act of criminality, financially or otherwise, the rule of law must serve as a guide at all times if the society wouldn’t descend into anarchy.
Buhari had on Saturday ordered full implementation of Executive Order 6 (EO6). A number of enforcement procedures were consequently put in place, which included travel ban on 50 high-profile Nigerians and monitoring of the financial transactions of these persons of interest.

The PDP presidential candidate added that if past events were to be the judge, the 50 individuals would conveniently be critics and opponents of the Buhari administration.
Atiku said this was nothing but intimidation of political opponents ahead of the 2019 elections, adding that this was what the Buhari administration did in Osun State, where it froze the accounts of the Adeleke family and then illegally and clandestinely paid N16.7 billion to Osun State Government to facilitate daylight electoral robbery.

Atiku stated, “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.
“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.”
He said if the Buhari administration wanted to curtail the rights of Nigerians, then it must go to court and obtain a court order, saying anything short of that was unconstitutional and extrajudicial.
He added that the 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.

The PDP presidential candidate recalled that while Buhari was delivering an address at the annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association on August 26, 2018, he 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.”

Atiku said that was not only a faulty interpretation of the constitution, but also portrays the dictatorial and authoritarian mind-set of Buhari because only he gets to decide who and what threatens national security.
A former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who was included in the list, said he was not losing any sleep over the travel ban placed on him and 49 others.

He spoke with THISDAY on phone yesterday in Abuja and said that if Buhari or the federal government believed that this would hinder the people from electing Atiku as the president in the next election, it should think again, saying it will rather strengthen the opposition’s resolve to ensure Buhari never comes back to the Aso Rock Villa again.

He stated, “I really could not care less and neither will I lose any sleep over it. In my own case, I have not travelled out of this country since 2008 because my passport is with the EFCC, and the EFCC have refused to allow me to travel since 2008. So, for me personally it makes no difference. Life goes on and I know that at the end of the day the Lord will free me from those who seek to destroy my life.

“But, from a wider perspective, I think it is something that people do need to worry about. I’m thinking of other people than myself because there are some people who are not well, who need medical attention, who may need to travel.

“There are other people who may need to see their families abroad and it is very clear that what they have done is not only unconstitutional, but it is also a brazen attempt to intimidate and violate the rights and civil liberties of members of the opposition. It is a barbaric course of action, the implications are very far reaching indeed.”

The PDP chieftain noted that the insults they have heaped on President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Goodluck Jonathan, Atiku Abubakar, former Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, Gen. T.Y Danjuma, Bishop Oyedepo, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah and all the other leaders that have endorsed Atiku would not be ignored.

On his part, a former Governor of Sokoto State, Bafarawa said that the action was another impunity and political blunder for the drowning government that failed to address the issue of nation’s security and bad governance.
Bafarawa, who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Yusuf Abubakar, stated that Buhari must have been misled and would regret being used to bring instability to Nigerians.
According to him, “We see this action as another impunity and political blunder for the drowning government that failed to address the issue of nation’s security and bad governance.”

A former Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, described the Executive Order 6 as taking the fight against corruption too far.
Moro while responding through a WhatsApp message sent to THISDAY, said he was not guilty of any corruption or corruption-related offences.
According to him, “Agreed, I am in court on spurious corruption charges and I believe that the court is competent to adjudicate on the matter. I am okay with whatever they want to do as long as I believe that I am Innocent until proven guilty.”

He stressed that he would continue to support the government in its fight against corruption as long as it is fought within the ambit of the law and judiciary is given unfettered hands to carry out its functions.
Moro noted: “I support government’s fight against corruption because corruption is evil, but to lump all cases and persons together as corruption and corrupt is unfair and unacceptable to me.
“I am not bothered about the travel ban. I love Nigeria so much that I will not travel out of Nigeria unless I have genuine reasons to travel out. After all, I am a village man.”

Falana Carpets Buhari over Travel Ban

Legal Adviser to the Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr. Femi Falana SAN, yesterday said the travel ban was a violation of the victim’s rights to freedom of movement.
He consequently called on the president to wage his war against corruption within the rule of law.
In a statement he released through SERAP, Falana said that by placing a travel ban on some high profile Nigerians, the Buhari ‘administration has exposed itself to ridicule.
Falana said the travel ban was 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 cited a Supreme Court judgment in the case of the Director-General, State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 340 where the Supreme Court did condemned the violation of the right of the respondent to freedom of movement through the seizure of his passport by the appellant.

According to him, it was the view of the court 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.

He, therefore, said government should have applied to the court for such an order.
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. 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.”

Afenifere: It’s the Dawn of Dictatorship

The prominent Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, described the travel ban as the beginning of absolute dictatorship in Nigeria.
Its National Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the president’s action was a usurpation of the powers of the courts, adding that if allowed, any and every Nigerian whom the government considered a threat could become a victim of the ban.
“It is only the court that has such powers. This is uncalled for because it allows for abuse. Clearly what they have done is wrong. It is a descent into dictatorship,” Odumakin insisted.

Also speaking, the former Political Adviser to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, lamented that Executive Order was clearly intended to subvert the rule of law.
He said, “To get the full and intended import, you have to situate it in the context of the general behaviour of this government. The immediate precursor of the so called executive order 6 EO6 was the clearly stated intention to subvert the rule of law that President Buhari revealed in a recent address to the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Annual Conference.

“He said the government’s definition of national security will take precedence over the rule of law and the constitution. It was a demonstration of the nostalgia he has for his days as military dictator. Recall that he had people executed retroactively for an offence that carried no such penalty at the time the offence was committed. Recall that journalists were jailed on account of a similar decree that criminalised any reporting that embarrassed his government.”
In Ibadan, former governor of Oyo State and flagbearer of Action Democratic Party (A.D.P) in the 2019 governorship election, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, described the ban as not politically motivated.
“It is normal for government to carry out its responsibilities as prescribed by law and that there is nothing special or political about it,” he said.

But reacting to the barrage of criticisms, the presidency at the weekend said it was not taken aback by scathing criticism of the travel ban, contending that it was the corrupt people were the ones fighting back.
A top presidential source, who did not want to be named, told THISDAY that such criticisms were not unexpected, more so that individuals affected by such travel ban were highly influential people, submitting that it is corruption fighting back.

“It is expected. They are powerful people. It is corruption fighting back,” he said.
When told that the criticisms were not even coming from those directly affected by the ban, he said there was a relationship between the critics and the suspects, describing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a party laden with corruption while the All Progressives Congress (APC) is fighting the corruption.

He said, “They are inter-connected. The beneficiaries are plenty. PDP is a party of corruption. APC is fighting corruption.”
When told the argument of critics that the government’s decision amounts to usurping the power of the judiciary, which they said had the exclusive power to stop individuals from traveling abroad, more so that most of the suspects have been traveling and returning to the country without constituting any risk, the presidential source queried why they keep frustrating their cases by constantly securing adjournments for up to 15 years.

“On a personal note, if you know that it is your money, why don’t you sit down and face your trials? If you are freed, you will enjoy your money. Because it is not your money, that is why you can adjourn the case for 15 years,” he added.
Asked on why the names of dead people appeared on the list, the source was swift to disown the list in circulation, saying the presidency never released any list as he queried where such list emanated from.

“I don’t know where the list came from, They should trace the list to its source. Where did they get the list from?” he queried.
When asked then why they opted to keep the list from the public, he said such a question should be directed to the AGF, saying he himself would like to ask the AGF such question.
“That should be subject to the AGF. If l see him too, I will ask him,” he said.