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EXECUTIVE ORDER 06 AND THE TRAVEL BAN ON 50 NIGERIANS: FG IS DOING THE RIGHT THING THE WRONG WAY

My ardent readers would recall that I wrote about Executive Order 06 a day or two after President Muhammadu Buhari signed it. In that article, which can still be found on my timeline here on Facebook, I wrote that there is nothing wrong in a President signing an Executive Order and how it is the exclusive preserves of Presidents, the world over, to do this from time to time. And for those who do not know, Executive Orders are also laws, albeit not conventional/normal laws – because they emanate from the Executive arm of government (instead of the legislature) and are signed by the President to expressly serve a situation that would hitherto and often take the legislature a long time to chew over before sending to the President for his/her assent affirming it as law. The prevailing idea behind President Muhammadu Buhari Executive Order 06 is to stop corrupt people from further enjoying proceeds of corruption and from using it to interfere with investigation.

Thus, with the signing of Executive Order 06, President Buhari had demonstrated that he means business in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. However, and as I titled that piece, Executive Order 06 easily means accused persons are guilty until proven innocent – instead of the opposite. This is because the Order allows the executive (EFCC, police, DSS, Immigration, etc) to confisticate sums of money and/or property of accused persons even before they are found guilty of the corruption charges leveled against them by the Nigerian government. According to the letters of this Executive Order 06, already confiscated money and/or property of an accused who is later proven to be innocent would be returned back but if found guilty as charged, the already confisticated money and/or property would be forever seized by the State and returned to government.

It was, following the letters and spirit of Executive Order 06, that the President placed travel ban on some 50 Nigerians, particularly people who have cases of corruption to answer to. Last night on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics hosted by Seun Okinbaloye, Alhaji Garba Shehu; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, announced that the list of the banned 50 making waves on social media is fake because the government he speaks for did not and would not release the names of these people. He also said that some of the cases are over 10 years old, meaning that their prosecution did not begin under the administration of President Buhari and is not for the purpose of witch hunting opponents.

Now, any Nigerian of good conscience and one who wants Nigeria to presently reduce corruption would support the position of Executive Order 06. Why? Because it seeks to expedite and add more fangs to the battle against graft and corruption. However, and particularly with this travel ban, the Presidency missed the plot. The first angle to this is that placing travel ban on 50 unnamed people, who would only find out when they try to travel out of the country, is against the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution that guarantees every Nigerian freedom of movement – although this freedom isn’t without checks. To limit a citizen’s movement for whatever reason, the government must secure a court order restraining such a citizen from enjoying this freedom. Thus, for the President’s travel ban on these 50 guilty-until-proven-innocent-Nigerians to hold water, it must obtain 50 different court orders restraining each of them from traveling out of the country – perhaps until their cases are decided in the courts.

The second angle faulting this travel ban is the timing. Currently, the atmosphere in Nigeria is politically charged due to the coming General Elections in February 2019 and as such, and in this moment, the country does not need this ‘drama’. True, and as Garba Shehu argued yesterday on Sunday Politics, the timing would always be wrong for corrupt people but still, I believe now is the wrong time to do something which is right. True to type, the main opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is already crying blue murder saying the ban is a plan to hoodwink the opposition, political enemies of the President and those against his policies and style of administration. Now, while this accusation by the PDP that the ban is a witchhunt may not be true, SERAP; a local civil liberty organization, also opposes the ban with strong words. These arguments certainly proves that the timing for such an Order (because this is electioneering period) is not right.

©Chad Otsapa 2018.All Rights Reserved

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