A Federal High Court, Lagos has ordered the Federal Government, the State Security Service and the police to immediately release the passport unlawfully seized from the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The court, in a judgment delivered on Thursday, ordered the respondents, including the police, to pay N50m to Sanusi as exemplary damages for the unlawful detention and seizure of his passport.
Justice Ibrahim Buba delivered the judgment in the fundamental enforcement suit instituted by Sanusi following his arrest, detention, and seizure of his passports on February 20.
The judge, who earlier in his judgment, dismissed the respondents’ preliminary objection to the suit, held that the respondents, acting through the SSS “do not have power to forcefully withdraw and seize the applicant’s passport for any reason.”
He ordered the respondents to issue a public apology to the applicant for his “unlawful arrest, harassment, intimidation, withdrawal and seizure of his passport”.
Officers of the SSS had on February 20 arrested Sanusi and seized his passport at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
The police, through its counsel, Mr. David Abuo, had said they had no case against Sanusi and was not aware of any allegations against him.
Sanusi, who was on his way back from Niger Republic where he had attended a meeting of central bank governors of ECOWAS states, was suspended as CBN governor shortly before his passport was seized.
The court held that his detention “without any allegation of commission of crime or charge” amounted to restriction of his personal liberty and unlawful violation of his rights to personal liberty.
The court dismissed the allegation of terrorism financing levelled against Sanusi, describing it as an afterthought.
It agreed with Sanusi’s counsel, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), that the respondents gave conflicting reasons for the arrest of the applicant and for the seizure of his passport.
“The first (the Attorney-General of the Federation) and the third (the SSS) are not on the same page,” the court held.
It added, “The court observes that surely, there is no doubt that either there is no synergy between the respondents or the respondents are only singing discordant tunes as afterthought,” the judge held.
The court held that the respondents failed to put any material before the court to back the allegation.
It also held that the respondents had “nothing to offer” against Sanusi’s denial of financing terrorism.