37 days after court order, immigration yet to release ex-Gov Peter Odili’s international passport

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37 days after Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, to release the seized international passport of former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili to him, the federal government agency is yet to comply with the court order.

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.

37 days after refusal to obey the court order, the Immigration on Tuesday, November 23 returned to the same court seeking an order to stay execution of the judgment earlier delivered in favour of the former Rivers State governor.

Represented by a 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.

However infuriated 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 up til 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.

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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 apology to Odili in writing for the embarrassment caused him with the seizure of his passport.

Justice Ekwo had thereafter granted 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.

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