Buhari’s travel ban on 50 high-profile Nigerians is illegal, says SERAP

A human-rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), have reacted to the Federal Government’s travel ban on 50 high-profile Nigerians describing it as illegal.

The group in a statement signed on Sunday by the Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said the order banning the alleged high-profile corrupt Nigerians from travelling abroad is arbitrary, repressive and illegal.

“It breaches constitutional rights and the country’s international obligations, which protect the rights to freedom of movement, to leave one’s country, to privacy, and to due process of law.

“A travel ban by its nature is an interference with the right to leave one’s country. It is neither necessary nor proportionate to prevent dissipation of stolen assets or stop politically exposed persons (PEPs) from tampering with any such assets. The ban should be immediately lifted and the order rescinded,” the statement read in part.

SERAP added that the travel ban rather than performing its declared objective of preventing dissipation of stolen assets would undermine the government’s expressed commitment to combat corruption and violate the country’s international human rights obligations.

“The travel ban will play right into the hands of high-profile corrupt officials by feeding into the narrative that the fight against corruption is targeted only at political opponents.

“The travel ban and mass surveillance will distract the authorities from taking legitimate action to recover stolen assets, effectively punish high-ranking corrupt officials and portray the government as unwilling to embrace the rule of law in its fight against corruption, thereby making it difficult to obtain the necessary support and cooperation of countries keeping stolen assets.”

SERAP in the statement noted further that the travel ban will also strain the government’s relationships with partner countries, on whom it will inevitably rely for vital asset recovery cooperation, undermining the effort to bring them closer.

“The travel ban cannot achieve the objective of depriving the 50 Nigerians suspected of corruption of their ill-gotten gains.

“It is absolutely important that the government is guided by the provisions of Article 31 of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, and which authorises states parties to take preliminary measures to seize, freeze or otherwise immobilise property for the purposes of confiscation/pending investigation and litigation,” the human rights group said.

The Federal Government had on Saturday banned 50 high-profile Nigeriansfrom travelling abroad following the implementation of the Executive Order 6 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Federal Government said the 50 prominent personalities (whose names were not stated) had been placed on a watch-list and are, therefore, restricted from leaving the country pending the determination of their cases.

President Buhari on July 5, 2018, signed the Executive Order (6) which will prevent any government official from engaging in corrupt practices.

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