By Unini Chioma
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has ordered the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, to deposit the seized international passport of former Rivers State governor, Dr Peter Odili to the Deputy Chief Registral Litigation of the court within 19 days.
Justice Inyang Ekwo made the order on Tuesday after the service approached his court to stay an order directing it to release the said passport to the erstwhile Rivers state governor.
Rather than comply with the said order, the NIS returned to the court with a motion seeking to stay the execution of the judgment.
The release order was issued on October 18 following the findings by the court that Odili’s passport was unlawfully seized from Odili in July this year.
However, the NIS through its counsel, Ibrahim Etsu, Immigration Service informed the court of its intention to challenge the judgment of the high court at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Irked by the contemptuous action of the Immigration, Justice Ekwo issued a fresh order directing the agency to bring the contentious passport before the court and deposit it with the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation of the court.
The Judge held that the application for stay of the October 18 judgment would not be entertained by his court since the Immigration Service was already in contempt of the court with the refusal to release the passport as directed.
Justice Ekwo then gave the Immigration uptil December 12 to purge itself of the contempt by depositing the passport with the court registrar to qualify to be heard on the motion for stay.
The judge had in his judgment of October 18 held that the action of Immigration in seizing the passport was not only unlawful but illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires.
Justice Ekwo in the judgment in a suit filed by Odili to challenge the seizure of the passport had upheld the submission of his counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe SAN that the Immigration and its Comptroller General lacked the constitutional powers to do what they did.
The reason adduced by Immigration that Odili’s passport was impounded because he was on the watch list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to justify the passport seizure was rejected by the court on the ground that such use of power is not known to any law in the country.
While ordering that the passport with numbers B5003305 be immediately returned to the former governor, Justice Ekwo had ordered Immigration to tender an apology to Odili in writing for the embarrassment caused him with the seizure of his passport.
Justice Ekwo had thereafter granted an order of perpetual injunction against Immigration restraining it and its agents from harassing, intimidating or infringing on the fundamental rights of Odili to freedom of movement inside or outside Nigeria.