Notwithstanding the federal government’s explanation that the ban on 50 persons from traveling abroad over corruption cases is not a witchhunt, the policy has attracted scathing criticisms from some quarters, especially the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The ban, which followed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari for the full implementation of Executive Order 6, is in fact an inevitable mechanism for the success of the ongoing war against corruption.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, in a statement last week, said following the instant judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the Executive Order 6 (EO6), President Buhari has mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to implement the Order in full force.
“To this end, a number of enforcement procedures are currently in place by which the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies have placed no fewer than 50 high-profile persons directly affected by EO6 on watch-list and restricted them from leaving the county pending the determination of their cases,” he said.
He said the financial transactions of these persons of interest are being monitored by the relevant agencies to ensure that the assets are not dissipated and such persons do not interfere with, or howsoever corrupt the investigation and litigation processes.
“It is instructive to note that EO6 was specifically directed to relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that all assets within a minimum value of N50 million or equivalent, subject to investigation or litigation are protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful means, pending the final determination of any corruption-related matter,” he said.
He said the Buhari administration reassures all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians of its commitment to the fight against corruption, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the general principles of the rule of law.
“Accordingly, this administration will uphold the rule of law in all its actions and the right of citizens would be protected as guaranteed by the constitution.
We, therefore, enjoin all Nigerians to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities towards ensuring a successful implementation of the Executive Order 6 which is a paradigm-changing policy of the Federal Government in the fight against corruption,” he said.
President Buhari had while signing the Executive Order 6 last July declared a state of emergency on corruption.
However, the PDP described the policy an attempt by the Presidency to foist what it termed a full-blown fascism on the nation beginning with the placement of “illegal travel restrictions” on 50 Nigerians.
The party in a statement on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the step was clearly targeted at members of the opposition parties, perceived political enemies of President Buhari and well-meaning Nigerians, including members of the business community, religious leaders, former political leaders and traditional rulers.
In a reaction, SERAP said that corrupt public officials will take advantage of the order banning 50 alleged high-profile corrupt Nigerians from travelling abroad without any legal basis and a judicial authorisation.
This, the organisation said, will be done by using the order as a basis to feed into the narrative that the fight against corruption is targeted only at political opponents.
It is appropriate to observe that the ban on 50 Nigerians bordering on corruption is in accord with the principle of equity which aims to suppress a mischief and advance the remedy.
There is no denying the fact that Nigerians standing corruption trials are notorious for seeking the leave of court on frivolous phantom medical treatment abroad but thereafter abscond into thin air and consequently frustrating their trials.
The objective of the ban is, therefore, to suppress this mischief by corruption suspects or accused.
It is also worthy of note that although the President’s powers to make the restrictions are derivable from sections 5(1)(b) & 41(2)(a) & 318(4) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as sections: 10(1)(2), 12, 18,19,37 of the Interpretation Act, 2004, the Executive Order 6 is devoid of arbitrariness and is within the ambit of the rule of law.
Section 1(a) requires the use of “lawful and statutory means, including seeking the appropriate court orders” in enforcing the Order.
Similarly, Section 3(i) empowers any person who is concerned about an infringement of his rights because of provisions of the Order to apply to a competent court for redress.
We, therefore, urge Nigerians to support the policy which is quite relevant to the success of the Buhari government’s fight against corruption, particularly the aspect of loot recovery.
It is also expedient to advise the opposition PDP to be objective in its criticism of government’s policies and programmes in order not to throw away the baby with the bath water.