A Federal High Court in Lagos has restrained the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services from arresting or harrassing the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido.
The court also ordered the DSS to release Mr. Sanusi’s passport to him immediately while also awarding the embattled CBN boss N50 million in exemplary damages.
Mr. Sanusi’s passport was seized on February 20, as he arrived the Lagos international airport, hours after he was suspended as CBN Governor by President Goodluck Jonathan.
He was briefly detained as well.
Mr. Sanusi, in separate suits, had challenged his suspension, and asked for enforcement of his fundamental rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
The court, on February 21, granted an interim order, restraining the respondents from arresting, detaining, or harassing the applicant pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The interim order was sequel to an affidavit of urgency filed by the applicant on the same date.
On Monday, the court adjourned to April 3 ruling on the preliminary objection raised against the restraining order by the SSS and the police.
The court has now ruled, saying the government and its agencies have no basis to arrest or harass Mr. Sanusi.
The court also frowned at the seizure of the CBN Governor’s travelling documents.
During the hearing of the rights’ suit, on Monday, the respondents – the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF; the Police; and the SSS – made different claims.
The agency SSS said it was investigating Mr. Sanusi for allegedly financing terrorism.
The SSS’ counsel, Moses Idakwo, said Mr. Sanusi’s interaction with SSS officials did not last for up to an hour and did not constitute a violation of his rights.
He said the provisions of Section 6 of the National Security Agencies’ Act empowered the Service to impound the international passport of suspects pending the conclusion of investigations.
On Monday, however, Mr. Sanusi’s counsel, Kola Awodehin, accused the SSS of falsehood in its new claim against the bank chief, saying the agency had no shred of evidence.
The counsel to the AGF, Fabian Ajogwu, had objected to the suit, urging the court to strike it out for want of jurisdiction.
Mr. Ajogwu argued that the provisions of Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) ousted the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He noted that the case before the court borders on the applicant’s employment, saying that labour -related cases are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court, NIC.
“Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the Constitution vests exclusive jurisdiction on the National Industrial Court, with respect to civil causes or matters touching on employment, labour or industrial relations.
“We respectfully urge the court to hold that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the reliefs sought by the applicant,” he said.
The counsel urged the court to strike out the suit.
Mr. Ajogwu also argued that the applicant should not, by the suit, seek to restrain the respondents from performing their constitutional duties.
He argued that Mr. Sanusi was being investigated based on the FRCN’s claims. He said the suspended bank chief was being investigated in accordance with the provisions of the law, which the respondents had a statutory duty to perform.
Citing the dictum of retired Justice Niki Tobi of the Supreme Court in the case of Adeniran vs Alao, Mr. Ajogwu submitted that a perpetual injunction would be everlasting and could not be granted by
a court of law.
“The applicant’s suit is basically an action to shield him from the machinery of administration of justice, which has been kick-started by the respondents,” Mr. Ajogwu submitted.
While the AGF said Mr. Sanusi was being investigated based on the FRCN investigations, the police said it was not investigating the CBN boss.
The counsel to the police, David Abuo, said nobody ever reported Mr. Sanusi to the police.
He, however aligned with Mr. Ajogwu, saying the case should be struck out as it seeks to bar government agencies from performing their duties.
However, responding to the respondents’ preliminary objection, counsel to Mr. Sanusi, Mr. Awodehin submitted that the court was vested with the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He argued that the suit had nothing to do with the terms of employment of the applicant or industrial relations, since it was not a case of the applicant against the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He argued that the applicant never sought an order of perpetual injunction, adding that the reliefs he sought were qualified.
“It cannot be suggested that the applicant is restraining the respondents from performing their duties, but they must be restrained from doing so without due process of the law.
“The seizure of the applicant’s international passport by the third respondent is a derogation of his freedom of movement,” he said.
Mr. Awodehin also argued that the different submissions by the three respondents showed that laws were being violated in Mr. Sanusi’s treatment.
“The first to third respondents give conflicting reasons as to the complaint made against the applicant.
“This conflict goes to show that they acted without due process of the law,” he said.
The counsel also argued that the SSS’ claim of financing terrorism was bogus.
“The allegation against the applicant as to funding of terrorism is an afterthought by the respondents which is not backed by facts, as there is no reasonable suspicion that the applicant committed any crime,” he said.
He urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection and uphold the case of the applicant.
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