By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has ordered the Nigerian Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) including the State Security Service(SSS) not to carry out any search warrant at the residence of the River State Governor, NyesomWike.
Wike had on May 4, 2017, dragged the IGP, police, EFCC and SSS to court following moves by the defendants to investigate him while in office as a governor.
The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in his ruling held that the plaintiff cannot be investigated based on the provision of section 308(1) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.
The court declared that by virtue of the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the defendants cannot whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers, privies or in any manner howsoever apply for, obtain, issue or in any way or manner howsoever execute any court process requiring; the appearance of the plaintiff who is currently the Governor of Rivers state, Nigeria.
He also held that sections 149 and 150 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, prohibited the situation.
The provisions stipulated that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against a person protected by section 308, while section 308(1)(c) shows that the constitution has prohibited court process requiring appearance of a serving governor before any investigative panel.
Secondly, the person covered by the provisions shall not be arrested, and thirdly, any process of court requiring appearance of a person protected under the provisions shall not be applied.
Justice Mohammed stated that the argument of the police and EFCC that Wike’s residence can be searched without his presence “is untenable.”
In addition, the court noted that the essence of section 308 was to accord immunity to a serving governor so as not to cause distractions to the governor in the act of governance.
Consequently, the judge granted the reliefs of the Plaintiff as prayed.
Arguing the matter in the suit number ABJ/FHC/CS/383/2017, the plaintiff through his counsel, Sylva Ogwemoh SAN, had submitted that section 308 (immunity clause) as provided under the constitution “is put in place to allow a serving governor to concentrate on act of governance.
Ogwemoh had argued that the section was designed to protect the dignity of office of a governor.
He insisted that based on sections 149 and 150 of ACJA, the plaintiff (Wike) must be present before a search warrant is executed at his residence.
Counsel added that allowing the defendants to execute a search at the Abuja residence or any house of Wike in any part of the country “is a blatant violation of section 308, insisting that the governor needs not to wait until his constitutional right is breached”.
But in opposition to the suit, the defendants had argued that they have right to search Wike’s Abuja residence in his absence.
They posited that Wike had admitted that he does not live in the Abuja lodge, and therefore his presence is not required before a search can be executed.
More so, the 2nd defendant had argued that based on section 4 of Police Act, it has discretion to search the residence of the plaintiff.
In addition, the defendants in urging the court to dismiss the suit, stated that Wike did not place anything on record to show that the police wanted to search his residence.
“Therefore, the suit of the plaintiff is only speculative and academic” the defendants stated.