There is confusion over the list of over 50 high-profile Nigerians placed on a travel ban by the Federal Government last Saturday as security agencies, including the Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service have said the list is not with them.
However, the Presidency insisted on Friday that the travel ban list had been sent to the various security agencies through the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
President Muhammadu Buhari had last Saturday announced that security agencies, including the NIS, had placed over 50 high-profile Nigerians on a watch list and restricted them from leaving the country, pending the determination of their corruption cases with the various security agencies.
The development followed the judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the Executive Order 6 by the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja last Thursday.
Buhari spoke through his Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu, in a statement issued in Abuja.
“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,” the statement titled, ‘Buhari directs implementation of EO6 in full force’, had read in part.
We don’t have travel ban list –Immigration, Customs
However, the NIS spokesman, James Sunday, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the Immigration had not received any list detailing names of corrupt persons, adding that the service would enforce the travel ban whenever it got such list and directive.
“We have not received the travel ban list; we are a law enforcement agency, our service will fully enforce whatever directive the Federal Government gives to us. So, once the directive (travel ban) is given, we are going to comply. We are an enforcement agency, we don’t have any reason not to comply,” he told one of our correspondents in a telephone conversation on Friday.
In the same vein, the NCS on Friday told one of our correspondents that it had yet to receive any list containing the names of 50 high-profile Nigerians banned from travelling out of the country.
According to the Public Relations Officer, NCS, Joseph Attah, the Federal Government has yet to send such a list to the service.
He said, “There’s none of such as far as I know. I’ve not seen any such list as I speak with you. However, if there is any development that is necessary to let the public know about, I’ll let you know.”
Furthermore, investigations by one of our correspondents showed that the Department of State Services was also not given a list containing the names of those being barred from leaving the country.
Sources close to the security agencies, however, said that there were individual names that had either been placed either on watch list or stopped from travelling by courts.
These individuals, the sources added, were being watched.
One of the sources said, “We have names of individuals that had been on watch lists for some time. There are some who have been barred from travelling by courts and so on. So, those people are being watched.
“However, I’m not aware of any special list that contains the names of about 50 people as being speculated in the media.”
Another source noted that some of the popular names trending online had earlier been barred by courts from travelling.
Travel ban list with security agencies, Presidency insists
But the Presidency insisted on Friday that the nation’s security agencies were already in possession of the list of about 50 Nigerians placed on travel ban as part of moves to implement Executive Order 6 signed by the President.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Shehu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Shehu said the information made available to him by Malami was that the list had been made available to the security agencies.
The presidential spokesman said he had no reason to doubt the AGF.
“The AGF has made the list available to them.
“That is the information available to me and I don’t have any reason to doubt him,” he said.
No travel ban list with us –NIS airport officials
Security agencies, including the NIS, NCS and the DSS at the Lagos and Abuja airports also said they had yet to have any new travel ban list.
Findings at various commands of the immigration indicated that the NIS had not received the names of those to be on the watch list.
A source at the NIS command in Lagos which oversees the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Immigration formation, said the government had yet to send the names affected by the Executive Order to them.
The official explained that many high-profile individuals whose names were said to be on the list were seen travelling out of the country during the week.
“A prominent lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria who is facing corruption trial and who was mentioned as one of those affected by the Executive Order was seen travelling out of the country during the week, but nobody stopped him because there was no directive to that effect from the government,” the operative explained.
Also, sources in the NIS at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, claimed that they had yet to see the list.
Meanwhile, the Spokesperson for the AGF, Mr. Salihu Isah, could not be reached for his comments on the level of implementation of Executive Order 6.
While the calls made to his line failed to connect, the text message inquiry sent to his phone had yet to be delivered as of the time of filing this report.
Following the judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the Executive Order 6 last Thursday, Buhari had last Saturday mandated the AGF to implement the order in full force.
Aside the travel ban, Buhari said the financial transactions of those affected by the travel ban were also being monitored by the relevant agencies to ensure that the assets were not dissipated.
Explaining the rationale for the travel ban, a statement by the President’s media aide had said, “It is instructive to note that the EO6 was specifically directed to relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that all assets within a minimum value of N50m 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.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency has refused to make the list public.
Stating the reason for this, Shehu had in a statement said, “I want to confirm to you that we have not released any list and we are not doing so. These cases are well known and to say this or that name is on it will open the door to further accusations, including trial by media. The Immigration Service and other security agencies have the mandate of the President to carry out enforcement and they will do so giving due respects to individual rights, in line with the constitution.”