Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services, alias SSS, on Saturday night blocked the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, from boarding a Turkish airline flight for a planned trip to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj, a witness and a spokesperson for Mr. Sanusi have told PREMIUM TIMES.
Operatives of the SSS based at the Aminu Kano International Airport also seized Mr. Sanusi’s passport and told him they would not allow him to travel abroad unless they received clearance from their Abuja headquarters, this newspaper learnt.
The SSS’ action however appears a contravention of the April 3 judgment of a Federal High Court in Lagos, which restrained the agency and the Nigeria Police from arresting or harassing the CBN Governor or seizing his passport.
A spokesperson for Mr. Sanusi, Muyiwa Adekeye, told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday night that the governor had arrived the Kano airport for the 11: 10p.m. Turkish Airlines flight to Turkey where he would have connected another flight to Saudi Arabia.
But after the CBN governor had been checked in by the airline and was about to complete immigration formalities, his passport was confiscated by the SSS operatives at the immigration cubicle and told he could not travel.
“The SSS officials were shown the certified true copies of the court order which barred them from harassing or arresting him,” Mr. Adekeye said. “But the officers said they have no choice in the matter and that they were only acting on instruction from above that they should not allow the governor to travel.”
Mr. Adekeye said when Mr. Sanusi insisted on reading the court order to the operatives, the officers simply disappeared with his passport and failed to return.
The development caused confusion at the airport and delayed the Turkish Airline flight. Mr. Sanusi’s luggage was however later unloaded to allow the flight proceed on its journey without the embattled CBN Governor.
Contacted for comments Saturday night, the spokesperson for the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said she was not aware of the matter.
“I don’t know about that please,” Ms. Ogar told PREMIUM TIMES on telephone.
Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos had on April 3 restrained the federal government, the Nigerian police, and the SSS from arresting Mr. Sanusi and specifically ordered the SSS to immediately release his international passport, unlawfully seized from him in February.
Justice Buba also ordered the trio to issue public apology as well as pay N50million in damages to the CBN Governor.
Delivering a judgment in a suit filed by Mr. Sanusi seeking an order restraining the police and the SSS from infringing on his fundamental rights, the judge dismissed the SSS’ allegations that the suspended CBN boss was financing terrorism.
Joined in the suit were the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF; Inspector General of Police; and the SSS as first, second, and third respondents respectively.
The SSS had hinged its decision to arrest Mr. Sanusi and confiscate his passport on allegations that he was aiding terrorism.
While the judge accused the Nigerian government and the SSS of presenting conflicting statement in their argument, showing that they had “acted in bad faith;” he noted that the Nigerian police were frugal by stating that they had not been briefed by anyone to investigate or arrest Mr. Sanusi.
Justice Buba then proceeded to make the following declaratory orders:
- A declaration that the first respondent, acting through the officers of the third respondent or its privies, does not have any power to forcefully withdraw and keep the passport of the applicant for any reason whatsoever.
- A declaration that the respondent do not have any power to forcefully withdraw and seize the passport of the applicant, without compliance with section 5 (1) of the Passport Miscellanous Provisions Act 2004.
- A declaration that the forceful seizure and detention of applicant’s passport, is an unlawful violation of his right to freedom of movement, enshrined in section 35 of the 1999 Constitution and article 12 of the Charter on Human and Peoples Right Act.
- A declaration that the conduct of respondent acting through the officers of the SSS, in forcefully arresting the applicant without due allegation or suspicion of a crime, is an unlawful violation of his right to personal liberty.
- An order of this court is hereby made restraining the respondent, their agents, privies or any other law enforcement agency of the respondents, from further interfering, harassing or infringing on the personal liberty of the applicant.
- An order for immediate release to the applicant of his international passport forcefully withdrawn and seized on Feb. 20, is hereby made.
- Having granted a restraining order, the order of perpetual injunction cannot be granted because for every infringement, the applicant has a right to come to court.
- An exemplary damages against the respondents jointly and severally is also awarded, in the sum of N50 million only.
- An order is also made, directing the respondent to make a public apology to the applicant for unlawful arrest, detention and harassment.
The judge, however, turned down Mr. Sanusi’s prayer for an injunction perpetually restraining the law enforcement agencies from arresting him, noting that the CBN governor could always return to court when the need arises.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on February 20 suspended Mr. Sanusi from office citing alleged financial recklessness as reason.
But many Nigerians suspect the CBN governor was targeted because he blew the whistle on state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, saying the corporation failed to account for $20billion oil revenue.