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Former Delta State Gubernatorial Aspirant on the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Sunny Onuesoke has described as unconstitutional the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC’s) of the passports of Nigerians under their investigation.
Reacting to seizure of passports by Nigeria Security agencies in recent times, Onuesoke in a statement yesterday argued that EFCC has no constitutional right to seize passport of those under their investigation stressing that it is only the court that can issue such an authority.
The PDP chieftain maintained that the action of EFCC impounding passports of those they are investigating was tantamount to infringement on their rights to freedom of movement which call into question Nigeria’s commitment to fundamental democratic principles and how it could cause reputational damage to the country at home and on the international stage.
He noted that a situation in which government agencies take actions, constitutional or not, lawful or otherwise, based on their whims and caprices, is a dangerous, dictatorial, autocratic, unacceptable practice which must be discouraged, because it has no place in a constitutional democracy.
According to him, “The Passport (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 in Section 6 defines Passport as “a document of protection and authority to travel issued by the competent Nigerian officials to Nigerians wishing to travel outside Nigeria.” And, while the Act doesn’t provide for seizure of passports, Section 5 thereof provides for instances in which an individual’s passport may be cancelled or withdrawn.”
He said though in certain circumstances, Section 45 of the Constitution provides for restrictions on and derogation from fundamental rights, including that of freedom of movement, it is definitely not a ‘carte blanche’ for Government agencies to unilaterally seize people’s passports, simply because such agencies are able to abuse their powers and/or act ultra vires their powers and get away with it.
Quoting Obiora Chinedu Okafor in his Paper titled “The Fundamental Right to a Passport Under Nigerian Law: An Integrated Viewpoint”, Onuesoke asserted that the right of every Nigerian to possess a Nigerian passport, is derived from the constitutional rights particularly Section 41(1) of the Constitution), adding that for the fact that acquiring a passport is not free of charge but comes at a fee, gives the holder of a passport a proprietary right over it until the expiration of the passport.