A Federal High Court, Thursday ordered the Federal Government to return the seized international passport belonging to suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, stating that the terrorism charge preferred against him was an afterthought.
Sanusi had filed a suit at the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, seeking an order restraining the police and the Department of Security Service (DSS) from infringing on his fundamental human rights, following his detention and seizure of his passport at the Murtala Muhammadu Airport in Lagos on the day he was removed as the CBN governor.
The SSS had hinged its decision to arrest Sanusi and confiscate his passport on allegations that he was aiding terrorists.
However, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court ruled in Sanusi’s favour and also asked the government to apologise to him for the seizure of his international passport by the DSS.
In his judgment, Justice Buba not only dismissed the preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit filed by Dr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) on behalf of the AGF, he also restrained the police, DSS and their privies from further harassing and arresting the suspended CBN governor.
The judge ordered the government to pay Sanusi N50 million as exemplary damages for the embarrassment he suffered from the seizure of his international passport and the brief detention he was subjected to at the airport.
In the judgment, which touched on every aspect of the reliefs sought by the suspended governor, the judge held that it was wrong for the DSS to have detained him before it began to look for evidence to support its action.
He stated that under the law, only the Minister of Interior could withdraw the international passport of a Nigerian and that this was not the situation in Sanusi’s case.
He further held that without a passport, a Nigerian cannot exercise his right of free ingress and egress in and out of the country as provided for under Section 38 (1) of the constitution and that Sanusi had made a case for the infringement on his fundamental rights and that the averment of the DSS that the suspended governor was being investigated for financing terrorism was an afterthought.
He added that this was more so when Sanusi had denied the allegation and the DSS had nothing to say to counter his denial.
Justice Buba agreed with Sanusi that his affidavit contained the basis for him to bring this application, as there was evidence the act of infringement on his fundamental rights was still being carried out with the seizure of his international passport.
He dismissed the preliminary objection of the AGF, saying that it was misconceived and lacked merit
He submitted that the questions for determination, the reliefs sought, and the averment in the 33-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, clearly revealed that the claim of the suspended CBN governor was for an infringement on his fundamental human rights and not an employment matter as alleged by the AGF.
Justice Buba however refused to grant Sanusi a perpetual injunction restraining the police and DSS from arresting and harassing him, saying he could always come back to court for any infringement on his rights.
Sanusi had been suspended on February 20, 2014 over alleged reports of by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies indicating that his tenure has been characterised by “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct.