In what may be a political masterstroke, the President, Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that about 50 unnamed but “high profile” Nigerians be banned from leaving the country.

In a press statement just released moments ago from the presidency, by his media aide, Garba Shehu, the order directs the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies to place the unnamed persons on a “watch list and restrict them from leaving the country”. The statement said the affected persons have “assets, valued at N50 million and above, that are subject of corruption investigation and litigation”.

He said the idea was to “ensure that the assets are not dissipated and such persons do not interfere with, nor howsoever corrupt the investigation and litigation processes”.

This move comes barely two days after a court verdict supported the President’s executive order #6 which it claims is intended to firm up his war against corruption.

Executive Order 6, signed by Mr Buhari on July 15 was challenged at the Abuja federal high court by two attorneys, Ikenga Ugochinyere and Mr Keneth Udeze, howbeit, unsuccessfully,. It is unclear if the lawyers intend to appeal the judgement.

But delivering judgement on the matter on Thursday October 11, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu held that the president’s executive order did not infact violate any human rights nor the constitution and affirmed the president’s constitutional power to issue such order.

But for a president already racing against time in his re-election bid for a second term amid waning numbers at opinion polls, it will be difficult for political interpretations and motives not to be imputed to the president’s dramatic order. Buahri will obviously benefit from a perception that he is fighting corruption but the president’s war against graft have often come under scrutiny with opponents accusing him of using it to pursue his political agenda by protecting his allies while prosecuting only those in opposition.

Below is the full statement from the presidency.

State House Press Release

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Following the instant judicial affirmation of the constitutionality and legality of the Executive Order 6 (EO6), President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to implement the Order in full force.

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 county pending the determination of their cases.

Also, the financial transactions of these persons of interest are being monitored by the relevant agencies to ensure that the assets are not dissipated and such persons do not interfere with, nor howsoever corrupt the investigation and litigation processes.

It is instructive to note that EO6 was specifically directed to relevant law enforcement agencies 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 Buhari administration reassures all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians of its commitment to the fight against corruption, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the general principles of the Rule of Law.

Accordingly, this administration will uphold the rule of law in all its actions and the right of citizens would be protected as guaranteed by the Constitution.

We, therefore, enjoin all Nigerians to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities towards ensuring a successful implementation of the Executive Order 6 which is a paradigm-changing policy of the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.

Garba Shehu, SA to the President (Media & Publicity)

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