President Muhammadu Buhari (image courtesy Presidency)

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has labelled the Federal Government’s travel ban on 50 high-profile Nigerians as illegal.

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

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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 The ban should be immediately lifted and the order rescinded,” the statement read in part.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 group said; “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.