The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Thursday declared as unlawful the seizure of passport of the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, governor, Lamido Sanusi, and ordered the federal government to return the document and tender a public apology to him.
The presiding Judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, also awarded the sum of N50m as damages in favour of the suspended CBN Governor.
The court further restrained the federal government through its agents or representatives from arresting or detaining Sanusi without following due process of law and from interfering with his freedom of movement.
On the allegations of terrorism financing made by the government, the court upheld Sanusi’s argument that the allegation was an afterthought because even a careful look at documents put before the court showed that there was no evidence provided by to substantiate the allegation.
The court held that it was unlawful for security agents to arrest and detain a person before looking for evidence, adding that it is only the minister of Internal Affairs that has the power to withdraw a citizen’s passport under Section 5 of “Issuance of Passport and Miscellaneous Act.
The law specifies that the minister can so act when it is established that the passport was obtained by fraud or that it has expired. Following the withdrawal of such passport, the law says that the act must be gazetted.
Also, where a person holds more than one passports, the minister can, in the interest of public safety, publish such a person’s name.
“The mere suspicion of a commission of crime does not give security agents the authority to arrest and detain a citizen,” Justice Buba held.