….he is on watchlist, NIS tells court
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Erstwhile Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the seizure of his international passport by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS.
Odili, who piloted affairs of Rivers State from 1999 to 2007, in his fundamental rights enforcement suit, told the court that his passport with numbers B50031305, was seized from him on June 20 by NIS officials for undisclosed reason, shortly after he landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
He said the NIS had since refused to release the passport to him.
In an 8-paragraphed affidavit he personally deposed to, the former governor, said he landed at the airport from the United Kingdom where he had gone for his routine medical checkup.
He averred that upon his arrival, his traveling documents were checked and given back to him, but while he waited for his luggage to be cleared, an Immigration official approached him and demanded for the passport on claim of routing check.
Dr. Odili told the court that complied and handed his documents over to the official who went away with and failed to return it back.
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Stressing that he is a law abiding senior citizen of Nigeria that did not do anything to warrant the seizure of his passport, Odili, prayed the court to intervene in the matter.
Both the NIS and its Comptroller General were cited as Respondents in the matter.
Odili prayed the court to compel the two Respondents to release the passport to him, as well as to issue an order of perpetual injunction stopping them from further harassing, embarrassing, intimidating or interfering with his fundamental right to freedom of movement.
He equally prayed the court to compel the Respondents to tender written apology to him for the embarrassment caused him by the Immigration.
However, in a counter affidavit that was filed by the NIS, it told the court that Odili was among persons the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, placed on the watchlist, saying it was the reason his passport was seized.
In the counter affidavit deposed to by one Okwe Ernest, a lawyer in the Legal Department of the NIS, he told the court that the action against the former governor followed a request by the anti-graft agency.
It therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit, insisting that it was only performing its statutory function.
Besides, the NIS told the court that since the passport was seized, Odili never demanded for its release or cared to know why it was seized.
Meanwhile, when the matter came up on Wednesday, counsel to the Respondents, Mr Jimoh Adamu, notified the court that he just filed and served the counter affidavit on the Applicant.
He thereafter applied for a short adjournment, a request that was not opposed by Odili’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN.
Consequently, Justice Ahmed Mohammed adjourned the matter till September 28 for hearing.
It will be recalled that a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had in 2007, issued an order of perpetual injunction that barred the EFCC and other security agencies in the country from arresting or investigating the former governor.