HUMAN rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana (SAN), has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the travel ban imposed on 50 high profile criminal suspects covered by Executive Order 6 (EO6).
Falana in a statement issued on Sunday said only the courts can impose a travel ban on the suspected high profile criminals.
He argued that since the power of the anti-graft agencies and the courts to place criminal suspects on watch list or subject their passports to temporary seizure has never been in doubt, “the directive to place the 50 high profile suspected persons on watch list and restrict their movement is highly superfluous, completely unwarranted and totally uncalled for.
“In fact, it is an ingenious design to expose the Buhari administration to ridicule,” Falana said.
He stated further that since the high profile criminal suspects covered by EO6 have been placed on a watch list while their passports have been seized by either the anti-graft agencies or the courts, the travel ban slammed on them by President Buhari ought to be withdrawn without any delay.
Falana said the travel ban is a sad reminder of the reckless placement of political opponents on security watch list and seizure of their passports by the defunct military junta.
He recalled that a Federal High Court last week upheld the constitutional validity of the controversial Executive Order 6 (EO6) issued by President Mohammed Buhari on July 5 this year and that government, acting on the ruling, directed the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies to place no fewer than 50 high profile persons directly affected by EO6 on watch-list and restrict them from leaving the country pending the final determination of their cases.
“Even though the names of the “50 high profile persons” have not been published by the federal government, he said they are presumed to be either standing trial in the various high courts or being investigated for corrupt practices by the anti-graft agencies.
“If the federal government had done some background check, it would have discovered that the names of the 50 VIPs have long been placed on security watch list while their passports have been impounded by the anti graft agencies or the courts as one of the conditions for admitting them to bail.
“It is public knowledge that whenever the defendants wish to travel abroad for medical treatment they usually apply for the interim release of their passports.
“Since the courts have taken judicial notice of the perilous state of medical facilities in the country such applications are usually granted. And once the suspects return from the foreign medical trips their passports are returned to the registry of the trial courts”, he explained.
He, however, regretted that indigent accused persons standing trial for stealing, fraud or other economic crimes in Nigerian courts are not entitled to such privilege because they have no money to acquire passports not to talk of paying for foreign trips and medical treatment abroad.
Falana said the travel ban on the 50 high profile criminal suspects is a sad reminder of the reckless placement of political opponents on security watch list and seizure of their passports by the defunct military junta.