Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Odili’s passport seizure: Court awards N2m fine against Immigration

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, awarded N2 million fine against Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, over the refusal to comply with its order on the release of the travel documents of former Rivers Governor, Peter Odili.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling, also directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, to take a disciplinary action against counsel to NIS, J.A. Adamu, for alleged unprofessional conduct.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Justice Ekwo had, on Oct. 18, in a suit filed by Odili against the NIS and its Comptroller General, ordered the immediate release and return of his International passport with number B50031305.

Ekwo had also ordered the NIS to write an apology to Odili for the unlawful seizure of his passport as well as the embarrassment meted to him.

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However, about 37 days after the court judgment, the NIS on Nov. 23 told the court to stay execution because it had appealed the judgment.

In a motion filed before the court, the NIS had sought a stay of execution on the judgement its delivered.

Justice Ekwo, who then adjourned on the condition that the NIS must submit Odili’s passport with the court registrar as a condition for their motion to be heard, fixed a date for hearing the application.

But on the adjourned date, no counsel appeared for the NIS, and counsel to Odili, Ifedayo Adedipe , SAN, made application against the NIS, urging the court to award fine for their disregard to court order.

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Justice Ekwo then adjourned the matter again.

At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, NIS was not represented in court again.

Delivering his ruling, the judge expressed surprise that despite the motion filed by the NIS, no counsel was in court to take it.

“This is the second time this matter is coming up after it has been said for the respondent/applicant (NIS) to comply with order of the court.

“I have given the respondent/applicant ample time to comply with court order,” he said.

Ekwo noted that on the last adjourned date, the NIS was not represented in court, making the matter to be adjourned.

“Today, the respondent/applicant is also not in court,” he added.

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He said it was glaring that the NIS was not ready to comply with the order.

He said: “Consequently, I made an order directing the respondent/applicant to pay N2 million fine in favour of applicant/respondent (Odili)” for making him to be represented in court while the NIS did not send any representation.

The judge, who ordered the AGF to take a disciplinary action against J. A Adamu, lawyer to NIS, for his unprofessional conduct in the handling of the case, directed Adamu to appear in court in the next adjourned date and show cause why action should not be taken against him.

Justice Ekwo adjourned until Jan. 22, 2022 for hearing of the application.

NAN

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