Passport seizure: Odili to know fate Oct. 18
The Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed Oct. 18 to deliver judgment in the fundamental rights suit filed by former Rivers Governor, Peter Odili against the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) challenging the seizure of his international passport.
Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date on Friday after taking arguments from Odili’s counsel, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Mr Jimoh Adamu who represented the NIS and its comptroller-general.
Adedipe after adopting his processes, prayed the court to order the NIS to release the international passport of his client on the grounds that it was unlawfully seized from him.
According to Adedipe, the respondents have not shown us any court order mandating them to impound the international passport of the applicant.
The senior lawyer prayed the court to discountenance the claim of the NIS that Odili was on the watchlist of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
He submitted that adding that up till now, his client had neither been interrogated or any criminal charge instituted against him for any offence.
“The applicant is a senior citizen of Nigeria and is 73 years old, a former deputy governor, a two time governor of Rivers and an accomplished medical doctor as well as a holder of national honors.
“He is not a terrorist but a law abiding citizen and the EFCC is not a body that can instruct immigration to seize a passport in place of a court order.”
Adedipe also urged the court to reject a letter from the EFCC exhibited by immigration to justify the seizure of the passport.
He maintained that the purported letter could not take the place of an order of a law court.
For his part, counsel to NIS, Adamu urged the court to dismiss Odili’s suit on the grounds that the passport was seized because he is on the watch list of the anti-graft agency.
Adamu also asked the court to reject the case on the grounds that the name on the seized international passport did not correspond with the name Peter Odili that instituted the case in court.
Justice Ekwo subsequently adjourned the matter until Oct. 18 for judgment.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reports that Odili dragged the NIS to court on the grounds that the service breached his fundamental rights when it seized his international passport.
The NIS, however, told the court that the former governor’s passport was seized because he was placed on the watch list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, ( EFCC).
In a counter-affidavit filed by its lawyer, Jimoh Adamu, the NIS justified the seizure of Odili’s passport and faulted his claims in the suit.
“The applicant’s passport was seized because he is on the service’s (NIS’) watch list as requested by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC),” Adamu said.
Giving details of how his passport was seized in his supporting affidavit, the former governor said: “In the early hours of Sunday June 20 at about 5 am, I returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom where I had gone for my medicals, through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“My travel documents, including my Nigerian international passport No: B50031305 were checked and given back to me, by the immigration officials.
“However, while waiting for my luggage, an official of the immigration service came over to me and demanded for my international passport aforesaid.
“I demanded to know why he wanted it, and he stated that it was for a routine check, and that same will be given back to me the following day.
“No official explanation, other than the above conversation, was given to me. I gave him the passport, and up till now, same has not been returned to me.
“The seizure of my passport by the respondents has denied me movements in and out of Nigeria, thereby restricting my movement in violation of my constitutional right to freedom of movement.
“I know as a fact that I am a very senior citizen of Nigeria, law-abiding and I have done nothing to have warranted the seizure of my passport by the respondents.”
Odili prayed the court to compel the respondents to release the passport to him and he was seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further harassing, embarrassing, intimidating or interfering with his fundamental right to freedom of movement.
The former governor also demanded a written apology from Immigration.