The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and its Comptroller General, Idris Isah Jere, have been ordered by a Federal High Court in Abuja to release the detained international passports of Peter Odili, a former governor of Rivers State, within five days.
The order was issued as a condition of the court’s hearing of the NIS and its Comptroller General’s appeal for a stay of the court’s October 18, 2021 verdict requiring them to release Odili’s passport and offer him a written apology.
Ibrahim Etsu, a lawyer for the NIS and its Comptroller General, told the court on Tuesday that his clients had submitted an application seeking an injunction to delay the judgment’s execution until the outcome of their appeal.
After hearing Etsu, Justice Ekwo agreed to hear the case on the condition that the petitioners release Odili’s passport and submit it with the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar within five days.
The judge then postponed the application’s hearing until January 13th.
Odili had sued the NIS and its Comptroller General earlier this year, accusing them of illegally impounding his passport.
Justice Ekwo concluded, among other things, that the respondents (NIS and its Comptroller General) violated Odili’s rights by impounding his passport without a court order authorizing them to do so, in a judgment issued on October 18 in the fundamental rights enforcement litigation marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/965/2021.
The judge then ordered the respondents to issue a written apology to the applicant.
The NIS and its Comptroller General want the Court of Appeal to set aside the October 18 ruling because the judge erred in his interpretation of the law, according to a notice of appeal submitted on November 19 by their lawyer, Jimoh Adamu.
They asserted two grounds for appeal, the first of which was that the trial judge erred in assuming jurisdiction over the matter despite its obvious flaws.
They claimed that one of the flaws was that the applicant’s names on the suit were different from the names on the passport he was claiming.
“The failure to comply with Section 109 of the Immigration Act 2015 deprives the court below of jurisdiction to hear and decide the case,” they added.
The NIS and its Comptroller General argued that Justice Ekwo made a legal error when he ordered them to “immediately release and return the applicant’s international passport, with number B50031305 to him, and to write an apology to the applicant for the embarrassment occasioned by the unlawful seizure of his international passport.”
They said that it was difficult for them to hand over the passport to Odili since his name on the court documents differed from his name on the passport.
“Because the respondent’s (Odili’s) names on record differ from those on his foreign passport, the claim is ineffective.”
“The respondent cannot be issued an international passport with a name that differs from the one in the record.”
“The appellants had a legitimate justification for seizing and withdrawing the respondent’s foreign passport.” The appellants had a good basis to revoke the respondent’s foreign passport,” according to NIS and its Comptroller General.