The Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on Sunday condemned the restriction of 50 unnamed Nigerians and seizure of their assets without due judicial pronouncement.
President Muhammadu Buhari announced in a statement on Saturday that some 50 persons have been barred from travelling out of the country, saying the move was to deprive them the benefits of depleting their alleged loot.
Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesperson who circulated the statement Saturday afternoon, did not say whether or not the administration procured a court approval before taking the measure considered unconstitutional by many Nigerians.
Mr Shehu said the government took the action against the backdrop of a court ruling upholding the president’s Executive Order 6 signed in July. But while the presiding judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, validated the core principles of the executive order — preventing suspicious assets from being eroded — she warned the administration against implementing it without a court order.
Mr Buhari signed the order granting Attorney-General Abubakar Malami sweeping powers to seize assets of persons whom the administration deemed corrupt and placed under investigation.
The order did not emphasise that court orders must be procured before such actions could be taken against citizen, a provision Mrs Ojukwu essentially struck down in her ruling earlier this week, insisting instead that no Nigerian should be denied access to their possessions without a valid court order.
The controversial banning of 50 unidentified Nigerians had been fiercely criticised by rights and constitutional lawyers, who said it had no place in Nigerian laws and could be largely targeted at stifling opposition ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party was amongst the first set of entities to condemn Mr Buhari’s travel ban on Saturday night, describing it as the tactics of a fascist government that is becoming increasingly panicky about its re-election prospects.
The non-partisan Social and Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) also scolded the president for going down such a perilous road in a democratic nation, adding that the approach was inefficient and counterproductive towards assets recovery and general anti-corruption measures.
Mr Abubakar, who recently emerged the major challenger to Mr Buhari for 2019, joined the fray on Sunday afternoon, saying the order, which he described as a vestige of Mr Buhari’s brutal dictatorship from the 1980s, was capable of devastating the Nigerian economy, and could at worse plunge the most-populous black nation into anarchy.
“We must be unequivocal in saying that we abhor any act of criminality, financially or otherwise, but the rule of law must be our guide at all times or society will descend to anarchy,” Mr Abubakar said in a statement from his campaign office. “Thus, we find it most undemocratic that in a nation governed by the rule of law, a President who swore an oath to abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, does this.”
“It is a throwback to Buhari’s evil Decree Number Two of 1984 which criminalised truth telling if it did not please Buhari, proving that dictators can grow old, but they can’t grow into democrats.
“Under the Buhari administration, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented capital flight out of the nation to the extent that we are not even listed amongst the top ten recipients of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in the latest ranking by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It is salient to note that we were number one under the last Peoples Democratic Party administration,” Mr Abubakar added.
Mr Buhari has strongly denied all allegations of impunity or selective targeting of opposition figures in his anti-corruption campaign, urging Nigerians to dismiss the antics of his detractors and instead support him in the fight to rescue Nigeria from the jaws of greedy politicians who have plundered the country for decades.
The president said it was necessary for drastic measures to be deployed in the fight against corruption, else criminal elements would continue to use their vast questionable wealth to frustrate and pervert the nation’s judicial system.
Read the full statement from Mr Abubakar’s office below:
Buhari’s Draconian Executive Order Would Lead to Capital Flight and Another Recession
Abuja, Nigeria, 14 October, 2018: Our attention has been drawn to the statement by the Presidency banning 50 unnamed Nigerians from travelling out of the country, purportedly on the strength of Executive Order 6. Their crime being that they are suspected of having property overseas and are involved in tax dodging or other alleged financial infractions.
We must be unequivocal in saying that we abhor any act of criminality, financially or otherwise, but the rule of law must be our guide at all times or society will descend to anarchy. Thus, we find it most undemocratic that in a nation governed by the rule of law, a President who swore an oath to abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, does this.
If past events are to be the judge, these 50 individuals will conveniently be critics and opponents of the Buhari administration. This is nothing short of intimidation ahead of the 2019 elections. This is what the Buhari administration did in Osun where they froze the accounts of the Adeleke family and then illegally and clandestinely paid ₦16.7 billion to the Osun state government to facilitate daylight electoral robbery.
The Nigerian Constitution guarantees every Nigerian citizen freedom of movement and freedom of association. This Constitutional right cannot be taken away except by a court order.
If the Buhari administration wants to curtail the rights of Nigerians, then they must go to court and obtain a court order. Anything short of this is unconstitutional and extrajudicial.
This sudden dictatorial act brings to mind President Buhari’s comments for which he was condemned by the international community and by the generality of Nigerians.
While delivering an address at the annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association on August 26, 2018, President Buhari has said “where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.”
That was not only a faulty interpretation of the constitution, the statement also betrays the dictatorial and authoritarian mindset of President Buhari because only he gets to decide who and what threatens national security.
It is a throwback to Buhari’s evil Decree Number Two of 1984 which criminalised truth telling if it did not please Buhari, proving that dictators can grow old, but they can’t grow into democrats.
Under the Buhari administration, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented capital flight out of the nation to the extent that we are not even listed amongst the top ten recipients of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in the latest ranking by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It is salient to note that we were number one under the last Peoples Democratic Party administration.
Funny enough, the Buhari administration were unable to stop Abdulrasheed Maina, their financier, from leaving the country after he was illegally brought back by them and reinstated to the federal service with double promotion.
It is precisely this type of draconian orders that have chased investors away from Nigeria and it is precisely why Nigerians will chase this recession friendly government away from power on February 16, 2019, so we can begin the job of Getting Nigeria Working Again.
Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation
120, Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent