By Rita Onuoha
In a move seen to be directly targeted at opposition politicians, the Federal Government at the weekend said it had placed ban on 50 high-profile Nigerians from travelling abroad.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen.
The move has however, brought the Federal Government on a collision course with the main opposition-Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), which has vowed to resist the ban describing it as “fascist”.
The statement by Shehu did not mention the individuals on the watch list but they include those whose assets, valued at N50million and above, are subject of corruption investigation and litigation.
The government’s failure to mention the specific people affected by the travel ban raised the fears that the affected people might be members of the opposition parties.
The emergence of political heavyheight, Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has left the presidency nervous.
Garba said however, the measure was part of the implementation of Executive Order Number 6 which seeks to ensure “that all assets within a minimum value of N50 million or equivalent, subject to investigation or litigation are protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful means, pending the final determination of any corruption-related matter.”
He said the financial transactions of the persons of interest were also being monitored by relevant agencies to ensure the assets were not dissipated and that such persons did not interfere with investigation and litigation processes.
In rejecting the travel ban, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)said the move was an attempt by the Buhari Presidency to foist a full-blown fascism on the country, beginning with the placement of illegal travel restrictions on certain unnamed Nigerians.
Describing the move as “wicked and draconian” PDP said the step was clearly targeted at members of the opposition parties, perceived enemies of President Muhammadu Buhari, well-meaning Nigerians, including members of the business community, religious leaders, former political leaders and traditional rulers, who were perceived to be aversed to President Buhari’s re-election bid.
The PDP further noted that the “decree” was a direct clampdown on the country’s democratic order adding it was an “overthrow of rights of our citizenry as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
“We hope this is not a ploy to harm certain eminent Nigerians under the guise of resisting travel restrictions. The whole world can now see how fascism is fast taking over our democracy and judicial system and how the Buhari administration by fiat, has directly ordered that citizens be secretly trailed, their movements and financial transactions restricted by government agencies, without recourse to due process of the law,” PDP said in a statement by Kola, Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary.
While the PDP noted that the Buhari Presidency has gone into panic mode since the popular emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as PDP Presidential candidate and the spontaneous jubilation his emergence has evoked across the country, the PDP maintained that the resort to total clamp down on the opposition and was totally unacceptable.
“What this means is that all Nigerians, particularly, opposition members and members of the business community and religious leaders, have become endangered and stand the risk of state violence under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
“The PDP therefore alerts the international community to hold the Buhari Presidency responsible should any harm befall any opposition leader, key members of the business community and religious leaders across the country, as we march towards the 2019 general elections.”