Oct 14, 2018

Legality Of Buhari's Travel Ban On Nigerian Citizens




Over the course of the past week, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari approved travelling restriction on no fewer than 50 high profile persons directly affected in investigations by security agencies in the country. By this, the persons cannot travel out of Nigeria pending the determination of their cases. Furthermore, the presidency states that the measure is 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.” The Presidency seeks to support this directive with the recent decision of the Federal High Court which supports the powers of the president to make the Executive Order in the first place. You may view the provisions of Executive Order, No. 6, here.




However, it is important to note the decision of the court in relation to the powers of the Attorney – General of the Federation, as the court further noted that the order seemed to accord the AGF the discretion to decide when to seek court’s permission to seize any suspected property and the court held that the AGF must at all times, obtain a court order before confiscating any asset.



We must therefore ask ourselves, did the Attorney – General of the Federation or presidency seek a court order before directing that travelling restrictions be placed on over 50 Nigerian citizens? Sadly, no information has been provided by the Presidency on this point.

Also, it important we examine what the constitution says? Section 41of the Constitution provides for the right of all Nigerian citizens to move freely. Furthermore, Subsection (2) provides that nothing shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society imposing restrictions on the movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent him from leaving Nigeria.  

Therefore, in determining if the President’s directive has breached the rights of any persons concerned, one must ask if the President’s actions are lawful and reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. The legal position however states that for it to be justified, such travel ban must be in accordance of a lawful court order.

THEREFORE FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS POST, IF THE PRESIDENT CONSENTED TO THE TRAVEL BAN AND ORDERED SAME WITHOUT THE LAWFUL ORDER OF THE COURT, THEN HIS ACTIONS ARE NOT JUSTIFIABLE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY AND IS THEREFORE A BREACH OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF ALL 50 PERSONS WHOSE NAMES APPEAR ON THAT LIST. CONSEQUENTLY, THE AGF CAN BE SUED FOR THE FUNDAMENTAL BREACH OF THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS.



Adedunmade Onibokun

Adedunmade is a lawyer and founder of the legal educational blog, @Legalnaija.

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