The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) on Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja insisted that the international passport of a former Rivers State Governor, Sir Peter Odili, was seized by its operatives on the order of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The agency begged the high court to dismiss a suit instituted by the former governor to compel the release of the passport to him.
Counsel to the Immigration, Mr Jimoh Abdulkadir Adamu, while defending the action of his clients tendered a letter by EFCC instructing Immigration to seize the passport because Odili was on the watchlist for some infractions.
Adamu also asked the court to reject the case because the name on the seized international passport did not correspond with the name of Peter Odili that instituted the court case.
Odili’s passport was on June 20, 2021, seized from him by operatives of the Immigration Service upon his arrival from a trip to the United Kingdom and has since been withheld.
Justice Inyang Ekwo has however fixed October 18 for judgment in Odili’s suit challenging the seizure of his international passport by the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Ekwo fixed the date after taking arguments from Chief Ifedayo Adedipe SAN who stood for the former governor and Mr Jimoh Adamu who represented the NIS and its comptroller-general.
Adedipe, while adopting his processes, prayed the court to order the respondents to return the international passport of his client on the grounds that it was unlawfully seized from him.
The senior lawyer submitted that the right of Odili to his property was violated by the immigration because there was no order of court before the passport seizure was effected.
He prayed the court to discountenance the claim of the respondents that Odili was on the watch list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission adding that up till now, his client had not been interrogated or 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 said.
“EFCC is not a body that can instruct immigration to seize passport in place of a court order.”
Adedipe also asked the court to reject a letter from the EFCC exhibited by immigration to justify the seizure of the passport adding that the purported letter can not take the place of an order of a law court.
Odili had dragged the Nigeria Immigration Service and its Comptroller General before the federal high court in Abuja challenging the seizure of his passport at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja for undisclosed reasons.
In the fundamental rights enforcement suit, he had claimed that the international passport with numbers B50031305 was seized from him on June 20, 2021, by operatives of the Immigration Service and has since been withheld.
In an eight-paragraph affidavit he personally deposed to, the former governor claimed that the passport was seized from him upon his return to Nigeria from the United Kingdom where he had gone for his medicals.
Odili averred that on his arrival, his traveling documents were checked and given back to him and that while waiting for his luggage, an official of Immigration demanded the passport on a claim of routine check which he complied with but that the document has since been withheld.
He claimed to be a senior citizen of Nigeria, law-abiding, and had not done anything to warrant the seizure of the passport from him.
Odili prayed the court to compel the two respondents to release the passport to him and order of perpetual injunction against 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 for the embarrassment caused him by the Immigration.
However in a counter-affidavit by the Immigration Service, It was revealed that Odili’s passport was seized because he is on the watch list of the EFCC.
The affidavit deposed to by one Okwe Ernest of the Legal Department of the Immigration Service averred that Odili was watchlisted at the request of the EFCC.
The Immigration Service claimed that the former governor was not entitled to the request presented before the court and that his suit should be dismissed for being premature.
Deponent asserted that the action of immigration was a result of collaborations of all the Federal Government security agencies and that the respondents were only carrying out their statutory functions.
The affidavit said that since the passport was seized, Odili has never for once demanded its release or cared to know why it was seized.
Justice Ekwo announced that he would deliver judgment in the matter on October 18
We seized ex-Gov Peter Odili’s passport on EFCC’s order – Immigration tells court