The Presidency has rubbished the lists making the rounds purportedly containing the names of high-profile Nigerians affected by the travel ban the Federal Government announced on Saturday.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, spoke about the issue on Sunday during his appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
He said, “We’ve seen a number of names being circulated. We have not issued any list. We are not going to issue any list because, again, if we did so, a lot of criticism will follow. Trials by media and all sorts of things.”
Although the Presidential aide declined to mention the names any of the people affected by the travel ban, he suggested that they were no surprises to the list.
“These cases are mostly known by most Nigerians. There are cases that have been in the public domain. Most of them were never really instituted by this administration. They go back seven to 10 years,” he said.
Mr Shehu had announced the decision of the Federal Government in a statement on Saturday, one day after a Federal High Court in Abuja upheld President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order 6.
The order, among other things, allows for the interim seizure of assets linked to investigation, ongoing criminal trials, and other related offences.
It also empowers the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), in liaison with relevant investigative agencies, to temporarily seize properties linked with corruption, to prevent the dissipation of such assets.
In a statement announcing the ban on Saturday, the Presidency said, “Following the instant judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the Executive Order 6 (EO6), President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to implement the Order in full force.
“To this end, a number of enforcement procedures are currently in place by which the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies have placed no fewer than 50 high profile persons directly affected by EO6 on watch-list and restricted them from leaving the country pending the determination of their cases.
“Also, the financial transactions of these persons of interest are being monitored by the relevant agencies to ensure that the assets are not dissipated and such persons do not interfere with, nor howsoever corrupt the investigation and litigation processes.”
The move has attracted criticism and praise. Among the critics are the Peoples Democratic Party, and human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) and the Social-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Mr Shehu, however, insists that the move was in the interest of concluding cases that have dragged on for too long “and held our judiciary captive”.
“The worry then is they (the cases) are not making progress and the administration wants to move very quickly with these cases so that they go to conclusion,” he said.
“This is a matter in the domain of the (Nigerian) Immigration Service and other security agencies who have the duty of enforcement.”
Asked if the persons affected by the ban are aware of the development in the absence of a public list, Mr Shehu said, “They know themselves. If in doubt, they can check with immigration.”
He argued that making a list of those affected would not help matters.
“This administration will not be subjected to another round of trial by the press; that we are persecuting individuals, or this is political, which, absolutely, it is not or that we are just convicting people via the press,” Mr Shehu said.
“Nigerians are tired of hearing about these endless trials that have led to nowhere and that have held our judiciary captive. Everyone wants to see them ending. That is the point.”