By Soni Daniel, Abuja and Dirisu Yakubu
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, issued an Executive Order (EO) against those his administration is prosecuting in court over alleged fraud from travelling outside the country pending the hearing and determination of their cases.
The issuance of the travel restriction came barely four days after an Abuja Federal High Court gave the President the right to temporarily seize the property of persons being tried for corruption.
Although the court made it clear that the President should not usurp the powers of the other organs of government in the implementation of a controversial Executive Order (EO), Buhari announced the restriction of the movement of no fewer than 50 high profile persons in the country but kept their names under wraps, apparently to escape litigation.
When the EO was first published on July 5, 2018, the Federal Government had attached a list of 155 persons, institutions and groups with cases ranging from money laundering to human, drug trafficking and fraud as those affected by the order.
However, yesterday, the Presidency issued a terse statement saying that only 50 high standing persons had been barred from travelling outside the country but did not attach their names.
Nonetheless, Sunday Vanguard learnt that those to be affected by the order are mostly former and current politically exposed persons, who have outstanding corruption cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Among those persons, whose cases are being prosecuted in court by the anti-craft agency and who are listed in the EO by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, are Governors Gabriel Suswan (Benue), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Orji Kalu (Abia), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri (Adamawa).
Full-blown fascism is here – PDP
Meanwhile, angry reactions trailed the President’s action.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, called on Nigerians to reject “in its entirety” the attempt by Buhari to foist a full-blown fascism on the nation beginning with the placement of travel restrictions on 50 Nigerians.
The party said the step is clearly targeted at members of the opposition parties, perceived political enemies of the President, well-meaning Nigerians, including members of the business community, religious leaders, former political leaders and traditional rulers, who are perceived to be aversed to President Buhari’s re-election bid.
The party, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the development as “a direct clampdown on our democratic order and an overthrow of rights of our citizenry as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The statement read: “We hope this is not a ploy to harm certain eminent Nigerians on the claims of resisting travel restrictions.
“The whole world can now see how fascism is fast taking over our democracy and judicial system and how the Buhari administration, by fiat, has directly ordered that citizens be secretly trailed, their movements and financial transactions restricted by government agencies, without recourse to due process of the law.
“While the PDP notes that the Buhari Presidency has gone into panic mode since the popular emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as PDP Presidential candidate and the spontaneous jubilation his emergence has evoked across the country, the party maintains that the resort to total clamp down on the opposition and our supporters will be totally unacceptable.
“What this means is that all Nigerians, particularly, opposition members, members of the business community and religious leaders, have become endangered and stand the risk of state violence under the All Progressives Congress, APC, administration.
“The PDP alerts the international community to hold the Presidency responsible should any harm befall any opposition leader, key members of the business community and religious leaders across the country as we march towards the 2019 general elections.”
‘Slide into tyranny’
In its own statement, CUPP warned against what it termed the gradual sliding of the country into tyranny.
The coalition, in the statement by its spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said: “The Secretariat of the CUPP has reviewed the statement of the Presidency on the full implementation of obnoxious Executive Order 6, presently been challenged at the Appeal Court and confirms that the implementation is the final unveiling of forewarned tyranny.
“It is unfortunate that the President could not wait for the final determination of the legal processes in the Court of Appeal before baring his fangs and listing 50 Nigerians with numerous opposition leaders, for travel restriction and seizing of their properties worth over N50m and above.
“The court of Appeal, we hope, will deal a decisive blow on this dictatorial Order and consign it to the dustbin of history where it rightfully belongs.
“The action of the President is nothing but a another futile attempt by the Presidency to muscle the opposition and deny them of the required funds for the election but this is coming too late in time as Nigerian electorate are already fully mobilized and ready to punish bad governance with their votes.
“President Buhari cannot survive the electoral anger of Nigerians and his desperation will only cause him to sink deeper into the abyss of opprobrium and hasten his final disgrace from office within the ambit of the law.”
Order shameful, condemnable – Fani -Kayode
In his own reaction, a former Aviation Minister and PDP leader, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said the President was targetting the opposition.
In a statement, Fani-Kayode 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”.