By Paul I. Adujie
The renewals of passports palaver or tussles between the federal government of Nigeria on the one hand. And, the former Federal Capital Territory Minister, FCT, Mallam Nasiru El Rufai, and the former Chairperson of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on the other, two prominent Nigerian citizens who were summarily denied passport renewals. These are matters of competition between the rights of citizens and the corresponding duties and obligations of citizenship. Many questions are raised.
Should a citizen disregard the constitution and laws of his country, while at the same time seeking rights and protections under such constitution and laws? Should the government of any country, literally, sponsor or facilitate efforts by her citizens who have campaigned and remain intent, on continuing to campaign against the government? Has the government of Nigeria the power to withhold passport renewals? Is the issuance of passport mandatory or discretionary? Could the government exercise such discretion against any citizen, and in particular, a citizen defendant, accused of wrongdoing, with charges pending? Can a citizen defendant rely and sufficiently, satisfactorily defend against criminal allegations, by merely asserting that such charges are false or that she would in any case, not receive a fair trial within an independent judiciary?
Nasiru El Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu need no introduction to anyone on earth. These gentlemen have during the preceding ten years have played prominent and high profile roles in the governance of Nigeria. But the current administration in Nigeria, has accused these gentlemen of running afoul of Nigerian laws and rules; these accusations have not been proven. Messrs Rufai and Ribadu are of course innocent until they are proven guilty. Guilt or innocence requires that a precondition be satisfied. Accused persons must have their day in court. And presently, Messrs Rufai and Ribadu are the only ones depriving themselves this day, in court. In the circumstances, the government of Nigeria is entitled to exercise her discretion against the renewals of the said passports. It might added, that such exercise of discretion, may not be arbitrary. It must be remembered and borne in mind that these pending allegations and accusations by government against Messrs Rufai and Ribadu, were pending for quite a while, before the renewals of their passports became issues. Hence the government can legitimately defend its renewal denials, until the gentlemen present themselves to hear the charges against them.
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