Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the travel ban placed on 50 high-profile Nigerians by President Muhammadu Buhari should be withdrawn “without any delay”.
In a statement on Sunday, Falana said the directive which is backed by an executive order signed by the president is an “ingenious design to expose the Buhari administration to ridicule”.
He said the executive arm of government is not empowered under the law to restrict the movement of criminal suspects.
Falana said only the anti-corruption agencies and courts have the right to restrict movement of individuals under investigation.
The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) cited various instances in the past where top government officials and other prominent individuals, including himself, were placed on watch lists by the ruling government.
He said an application for interim release of passports by some individuals under trial is usually granted for medical reasons, with the exception of “indigent accused persons standing trial for stealing, fraud or other economic crimes in Nigerian courts”.
“Sadly, the travel ban is a sad reminder of the reckless placement of political opponents on security watch list and seizure of their passports by the defunct military junta,” he said.
“Notwithstanding such judicial indictment of politically exposed persons seeking medical treatment during trial the law has not authorised the Executive to restrict the movement of criminal suspects.
“The power of the anti graft agencies and the courts to place criminal suspects on watch list or subject their passports to temporary seizure has never been in doubt.
“To that extent, the directive to place the 50 high profile suspected persons on watch list and restrict their movement is highly superfluous, completely unwarranted and totally uncalled for.
“In fact, it is an ingenious design to expose the Buhari administration to ridicule.
“If the federal government had done some background check it would have discovered that the names of the 50 VIPs have long been placed on security watch list while their passports have been impounded by the anti graft agencies or the courts as one of the conditions for admitting them to bail.
“For the umpteenth time, I am compelled to caution the Buhari administration to wage the war against the menace of corruption within the ambit of the rule of law.
“Since the 50 high profile criminal suspects covered by EO6 have been placed on watch list while their passports have been seized by either the anti graft agencies or the courts the travel ban slammed on them by President Buhari ought to be withdrawn without any delay.”