The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has declared the seizure of suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Lamido Sanusi’s passport unlawful.
The court asked the Federal Government to return the document and tender a public apology to Mr Sanusi.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, also awarded the sum of N50m as damages in favour of the suspended CBN Governor.
The court further restrained the Federal Government through its agents or representatives from arresting and detaining Mr Sanusi without following due process of law, and restrained the government from interfering with Mr Sanusi’s freedom of movement.
In a judgment which lasted about two hours, the court first assumed jurisdiction on the matter because the Federal Government had claimed that it was an employer/employee relationship.
The FG had contended that the appropriate court for the suit was the National Industrial Court which had exclusive jurisdiction over labour related issues, but the court, after reviewing the case and the relevant sections of the law, punctured that claim and said that it was a fundamental rights issue, since Mr Lamido Sanusi was not complaining about any labour related issue even though the cause of action arose out of an employment dispute.
On the allegations of terrorism financing made by the Federal government, the court upheld Mr Sanusi’s argument that the allegation was an afterthought because even a careful look at documents put before the court showed that there was no evidence provided by the FG to substantiate the allegation. The court held that it was unlawful for security agents to arrest and detain a person before looking for evidence.
In the words of the court, “The mere suspicion of a commission of crime does not give security agents the authority to arrest and detain a citizen”.
The court also held that it is only the Minister of Internal Affairs that has the power to withdraw a citizen’s passport under section 5 of “Issuance of Passport and Miscellaneous Act”.
The law specifies that the Minister can so act when it is established that the passport was obtained by fraud or that it has expired. Following the withdrawing of such passport, the law says that the act must be gazetted.
Also, where a person holds more than one passport the Minister can, in the interest of public safety, publish such a person’s name.