ByÂ AbdulwahabÂ Abdulah
Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, has threatened a court action if the government moved ahead with the decision not to renew his passport.
In a statement by his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, Ribadu whose request for a renewal of his passport was rejected alongside that ofÂ the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nasiru el-Rufai, said the governmentâ€™s decision was illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
According to Falana, he described the governmentâ€™s decision as a â€œtragic reminder of the dark days of brutal military dictatorship when the confiscation of the passports of political opponents, human rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners was the order of the day.â€
He cautioned that if the decision is not reviewed, â€œthe decision will be challenged as it may soon be extended to the growing army of political opponents of the Yarâ€™Adua administration.â€
He said the issue of issuance of passport to Nigerians have been settled by the Supreme Court in a suit filed by Mr. Olisa Agbakoba against the State Security Services (SSS), where the court held: â€œIt is not in dispute that the Constitution gives to the Nigerian citizen the right to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof. It also guarantees to the citizen the right not to be expelled from Nigeria nor be refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.â€
He also argued that Section 38(1) of the Constitution guarantees that every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part of the country, and that no citizen shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry.
He said it is imperative on any Nigerian to travel out of the country with a valid passport issued by the Government of Nigeria.
He said further â€œthe decision of the Umaru Musa Yarâ€™adua Administration to strip Messrs Ribadu and El-Rufai of Nigerian citizenship by denying them of their constitutional right to hold Nigerian passports it is a dubious violations of the provision of Section 38 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoplesâ€™ Rights.
â€œHaving regard to the fact that President Yarâ€™adua is the current Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the denying of passports and their renewal is a clear violation of Article 3 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Community Citizens which has been ratified by Nigeria.â€
He cautioned that if the decision is not reversed, â€œotherwise the decision will be challenged as it may soon be extended to the growing army of political opponents of the Yarâ€™adua administration.â€