Updated: March 2, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday banned 50 high profile Nigerians from leaving the country ahead of a difficult election early next year, saying that they had been placed on a watch list due to corruption.
But opposition members quickly pointed out that the 50 persons banned from traveling out were all members of the opposition plotting Mr Buhari’s defeat in February.
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Why it matters: Nigerians go to the polls in February to elect a new President, and opposition has been rising against Mr Buhari, a retired Major General who promised to kill corruption before it kills Nigeria, bolster the economy and crush Boko Haram. But so far, he does not seem to have succeeded. Unemployment is at an all time high, Boko Haram this week killed 18 soldiers in the northeast, and corruption is shooting through the roof, including from government officials. With all of that, allies have abandoned him, including former heads of state, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of reps, and endorsed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Many are predicting that Mr Buhari would be defeated. And now, just four months to the election, he seems to be remembering the war against corruption, and is going after opposition members with an executive order banning them from leaving the country.
“Following the instant judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the Executive Order 6 (EO6), President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to implement the Order in full force,” President Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement he sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
“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.
“Also, 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, nor 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.
“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 added.
But in a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC, President Muhammadu Buhari’s top critic and vocal opposition member, Femi Fani-Kayode, described the ban as shameful and condemnable.
He said those banned were members of the opposition.
He said: “The banning of 50 prominent Nigerians who are all members of the opposition from travelling out of the country by Buhari’s Executive Order and the power to confiscate their assets even though they have not been empowered to do so by a court of law or convicted of any offence is utterly shameful and condemnable.
“It is nothing less than a descent into fascism and a violation of the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of the individuals that have been directly affected and the Nigerian people. It is also a usurpation of the role of the Judiciary. Buhari is so desperate to remain in power that he has now resorted to attempting to muscle and intimidate the opposition. He forgets that he is not God and that he will soon leave power.
I condemn his lawless and desperate ways in the strongest terms. Only dictators behave in this way and Buhari has proved to be the most brutal and callous of them all in the history of our nation. I challenge him to do his worse and enjoy the short time that he has left in office. Sadists never last. Soon it will all be over and he will account for his evil ways and brought to justice”