A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday ordered the federal government, the Directorate of State Services otherwise known as the SSS, and the police to pay the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Malam Lamido Sanusi, the sum of N50 million as exemplary damages for unlawful detention and seizure of his international passport.
Delivering judgement in a suit filed by Sanusi, Justice Ibrahim Buba also ordered the immediate release of the passport of the suspended CBN governor, which the court affirmed that its seizure by the SSS was unlawful.
In addition, the court ordered the government and the concerned security agencies to issue a public apology to Sanusi for the unlawful arrest, harassment, intimidation, withdrawal and seizure of his passport.
But the SSS said yesterday that it will appeal the judgement of Justice Buba “immediately”.
It would be recalled that operatives of the SSS on February 20 arrested Sanusi and seized his passport, shortly after his arrival at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport from Niamey, Niger Republic, following his suspension by President Goodluck Jonathan on the same day.
However, the judge gave Sanusi the favourable verdict based on the fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by Sanusi following his arrest, detention, and seizure of his passport.
While delivering judgment, the judge dismissed the respondents’ preliminary objection to the suit.
“The respondents, acting through the SSS possessed no power to forcefully withdraw and seize the applicant’s passport for any reason,” Justice Buba insisted.
He held that Sanusi’s 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 also dismissed the allegation of terrorism financing levelled against Sanusi, describing it as an “afterthought”.
The judge maintained 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 judge held.
He further said: “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 court held that the respondents failed to put any material before it to back the allegation, adding that they had nothing to offer against Sanusi’s denial of financing terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Director, Public Relations Department of the SSS, Ms Marilyn Ogar, told our reporter yesterday that the service will immediately move to appeal the judgement at a higher court.