The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof Ben Angwe has said that the commission will investigate the travel restriction allegedly placed on the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose and one other governor from the South-South by the Federal Government.
Prof Angwe made this known while addressing members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, who were in his office Tuesday, to submit a petition on the alleged placement of travel ban on Governor Fayose and the refusal of the Department of State Services (DSS) to obey a Federal High Court judgment, ordering the DSS to pay N5 million damages for the illegal arrest and detention, for 18 days, of a member of the House, Hon Afolabi Akanni.
He commended members of the House of Assembly for their commitment to the sustenance of rule of law in the country and cooperation with the executive arm of government in Ekiti State, urging lawmakers in other States to emulate them.
Ekiti State House of Assembly had petitioned the NHRC, National Assembly, Amnesty International, Embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom over the alleged plot by the Federal Government to prevent Governor Fayose from traveling outside Nigeria without getting clearance from the DSS.
The petition, which was signed by the Speaker, Hon. Kolawole Oluwawole, was submitted by the Deputy Speaker, Hon Segun Adewumi; Chairman House Committee on Information, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan and Chairman House Committee on Health, Dr Samuel Omotoso.
The petition submitted to the NHRC reads; “We write to bring to your attention another impending infringement on the rights of the Governor of our State, Mr Ayodele Fayose and by extension the entire Ekiti by the Federal Government.
“A few weeks ago, our governor was reliably informed that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that he should be banned from traveling outside Nigeria. This reliable information was to be confirmed through reports in two major national dailies on Sunday, May 29, 2016 titled; ‘2 govs under watch, face travel ban ‘.
“From our findings, one of the governors being referred to is our own governor, Peter Ayodele Fayose and we wish to state like we have always done that we, the members of Ekiti State House of Assembly are with the governor on everything that he does.
“Even ordinary Nigerians do not require clearance from the Department of State Services (DSS) or any security agency to travel outside Nigeria unless in compliance with court order, and as at today, there is no court order placing travel restriction on our governor, Ayodele Fayose. Issues concerning Governor Fayose cannot even be entertained in any court by virtue of the immunity he enjoys as provided in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“We however know as always that this latest plot is as a result of our governor’s critical stance on President Mohammadu Buhari’s government and its anti-people’s policies, and we make bold to say that no amount of intimidation, harassment and oppression will cow the governor from exercising his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and to hold opinions as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
“We are aware that this is coming as a result of the failure of the President Buhari led APC government’s plot to use the DSS to coerce the House of Assembly members into the plot of removing the governor.
“We are also aware that plot to out-rightly take the governor ‘out of circulation’ cannot be ruled out as those advising President Buhari are said to be of the opinion that our governor has become a threat to his (Buhari) re-election bid and that everything must be done to ‘whip the governor to line’ before 2018.
“Going by the antecedents of the President Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria and the DSS under the President’s kinsman, Alhaji Lawal Daura, it is certain that there is nothing that cannot be attempted, no matter how unlawful.
“It should be recalled that this same DSS invaded the hallowed Chamber of the House of Assembly in our State, abducted our member, Hon Afolabi Akanni and kept him in detention for 18 days without access to anyone. Even when the court ordered that he should be released, the order was ignored. Up till today, no explanation was given for this arrest and detention.
“It should also be recalled that on April 20th, 2016, the Federal High Court, Ado-Ekiti, in Suit No. FHC/AD/CS/7/2016 ordered the DSS to pay a sum of N5 million to Hon Afolabi Akanni as damages for what the court termed unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional infringement of his fundamental rights. Up till today, that judgment has not been obeyed by the DSS.
“It is therefore on the premise of display of arrogance and contempt for the laws of the country by the DSS under President Buhari that we elected to bring this latest plot to place Governor Ayodele Fayose on travel ban to your attention.
“It is worrisome that the federal government will consider the idea of compelling a sitting governor in Nigeria that enjoys Constitutional Immunity like the President to obtain clearance from the Director General DSS, who is an appointee of the President before travelling out of Nigeria.
“This to us is an affront on the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) more so that States, as federating units in Nigeria are not under the Federal Government, which itself is also a State and not superior to other federating units.
“Section 35 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that; ‘Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty,’ Section 39 (1) provides that; ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference,’ while Section 41 (1) provides that ‘Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.’
“Article 13 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of each State while Article 13 (2) provides that ‘Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country,’ ditto Article 12 (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“By provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, ordinary Nigerians do not require clearance from the DSS or any security agency to travel outside Nigeria unless travel restriction is placed by an order of the court, not to talk of State Governors that enjoy immunity just like the President and are not under the control of the President.
“Our question is; if Governor Fayose has become a threat to the security of Nigeria just because he criticizes President Buhari and says the truth about his mis-governance of the country, what happens to Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), which provided for freedom of expression and freedom to hold opinions?
“Most importantly, under a federal system of government, the states and national government both enjoy some autonomy, with sovereign power formally divided between the national government and the States such that each State retains some degree of control over its internal affairs.
“However, it appears that the laws of Nigeria are not important to the President Muhammadu Buhari led government and it has become once again necessary that webring your attention to yet, another plot to subvert our rights as a State.
“We wish to recall that in 1984 when President Buhari was a military Head of State, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was prevented from travelling outside Nigeria for medical treatment, thereby leading to his (Awolowo) untimely death in 1987!
“The international passports of late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; late Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero and late Obi of Onitsha, Ofala Akulalia Alphonsus Ogugua were also seized and they were restricted to their palaces just because they travelled to Israel for business.
“We therefore wish to state on behalf of Governor Ayodele Fayose that as an opposition figure, he cannot be cowed by this pettiness from the presidency.
The National Human Rights Commission is by this letter being put on notice that Governor Fayose will travel out of Nigeria anytime he wishes to and attempt to stop Will be a direct invitation to breakdown of law and order.
“It is our considered view that President Buhari should rather concern himself with the growing insecurity in the country and charge the security agencies, especially the DSS to perform their functions as enshrined in the constitution instead of running after petty issues.
“The President should be prevailed upon to focus his attention on the economy of Nigeria that is almost collapsing and stop using his position to oppress other Nigerians.
“Thanking you for your efforts at deepening democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights in Nigeria.”