The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has applied for leave of the Federal High Court in Abuja to file fresh evidence to justify the seizure of the passport of a former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili.

NIS operatives seized Mr Odili’s passport upon his arrival from a trip to the United Kingdom on 20 June.

The NIS told the court that the former governor’s passport was seized based on a request of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after placing him on a watchlist.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that a judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Buba, had in 2007 issued a controversial order of perpetual injunction blocking Mr Odili, who was Rivers State governor between 1999 and 2007, from prosecution for corruption allegations levelled against him by the EFCC.

Displeased with the seizure of his passport, Mr Odili sued the NIS and its Comptroller General to retrieve his passport.

At Tuesday’s prceedings, the lawyer to the NIS, Jimoh Adamu, indicated his plan to file fresh evidence against Mr Odili.

Mr Adamu told the presiding judge, Inyang Ekwo, that the NIS intended to file a better and further counter affidavit to justify the seizure of the passport.

But the ex-governor’s lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said he would file a better and further affidavit in support of his client’s suit.

The judge then fixed Friday 8 October for further hearing in the matter and ordered the two lawyers to file and exchange all their processes ahead of the date.

The NIS had also filed a counter-affidavit to oppose the suit of the former governor and served same on Mr Odili.

Background

Mr Odili, a medical doctor, and deputy governor of the old Rivers State between 1992 and 1993, later ruled Rivers State as governor between 1999 and 2007.

He sued the NIS following the seizure of his passport at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja.

Giving details of how his passport was seized in his supporting affidavit, the former governor said his suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/965/2021, “In the early hours of Sunday, June 20, at about 5 a.m., 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 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 aforesaid passport.

“I demanded to know why he wanted it and he stated that it was for a routine check and that it will be given back to me the following day.

“No official explanation, other than the 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 respondent”, Mr Odili stated.

He prayed the court to compel the respondents to release the passport to him and sought 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 the NIS.

NIS had justified the seizure of the passport.

“The applicant’s passport was seized because he is on the service’s watch list as requested by the EFCC,” the agency had said in its court filing.

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