Court restrains Police, DSS from arresting Sanusi, awards him N50m damages

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday issued a restraining order against the Police, Department of State Service or their privies from arresting the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Justice Ibrahim Buba gave the order while delivering judgement in a suit filed by Sanusi, seeking an order restraining the police and the DSS from infringing on his fundamental rights.

Sanusi had filed the suit through his Counsel, Prof. Yemi Osibajo (SAN), seeking an order restraining the Police and the DSS from arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing him.

Joined as First to Third respondents in the suit are: The Attorney-General of the Federation, the Inspector-General of Police and the SSS.

Delivering his judgement on Thursday, Justice Buba dismissed a preliminary objection filed by Dr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) on behalf of the AGF, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.

Ajogwu had argued that the suit was wrongly instituted before the Federal High court, since the matter bordered on the employment of the applicant and so should be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court.

Dismissing the objection, Buba held that the provisions of sections 11 of the Labour Act, cannot take away the jurisdiction bestowed on the FHC by the Constitution.

He held that the provisions of sections 251 of the Constitution vest jurisdiction of the Federal high court, to entertain matters touching on enforcement of fundamental human rights.

Buba held that the applicant had brought the suit under the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Constitution seeking an enforcement of his rights and so is not a dispute relating to his terms of employment.

Buba said: “The averment by respondent that the matter is labour related is far from the truth.

“The first respondent is trying to set up another case for the applicant.

“”It is a case of “shifting the goal post” and making a case for the applicant.

“The facts deposed in the applicant’s originating summons and his affidavit, speaks for itself.

“It is a suit for enforcement of his fundamental right, which is recognisable by the federal high court.

“The court allows any person who perceives that his rights are likely to be infringed on, to approach the court for redress.”

The court therefore dismissed the preliminary objection of the AGF, holding that the court had jurisdiction to hear and determine the applicant’s suit.

Delivering his judgement on the main suit, the court held that from the totality of averments in the applicant’s originating summons, there is no doubt that the respondents had failed to answer all the questions raised.

He held that the first and third respondents, presented conflicting averments in their counter affidavits, which shows that they are not on the same page on the issue, and had acted in bad faith.

The averment of the second respondent is frugal, as it stated clearly that they had not been briefed by anyone to investigate or arrest the applicant.

Buba added: “The first respondent laboured to submit that the applicant is not entitled to a grant of perpetual injunction, but this court is of the opinion that for every infraction, the applicant is entitled to a relief.

“This court believes that the action of the respondents in this suit, deserves condemnation and exemplary damages.

“This court has no doubt that the applicant has made out his case against the respondents and so resolves all the issues in favour of the applicant.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the court makes the following declaratory order:

“A declaration that the first respondent acting through the officers of the third respondent or its privies, does not have any power to forcefully withdraw and keep the passport of the applicant for any reason whatsoever.

“A declaration that the respondents do not have any power to forcefully withdraw and seize the passport of the applicant, without compliance with section 5 (1) of the Passport Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2004.

“A declaration that the forceful seizure and detention of applicant’s passport, is an unlawful violation of his right to freedom of movement, enshrined in section 35 of the 1999 Constitution and article 12 of the Charter on Human and Peoples Right Act.

“A declaration that the conduct of respondent acting through the officers of the SSS, in forcefully arresting the applicant without due allegation or suspicion of a crime, is an unlawful violation of his right to personal liberty.

“An order of this court is hereby made restraining the respondent, their agents, privies or any other law enforcement agency of the respondents, from further interfering, harassing or infringing on the personal liberty of the applicant.

“An order for immediate release to the applicant of his international passport forcefully withdrawn and seized on February 20, is hereby made.

“Having granted a restraining order, the order of perpetual injunction cannot be granted because for every infringement, the applicant has a right to come to court.

“An exemplary damages against the respondents jointly and severally is also awarded, in the sum of N50 million only.

“An order is also made, directing the respondent to make a public apology to the applicant for unlawful arrest, detention and harassment.”

The court had on February 21 granted an interim order of injunction, restraining the respondents from arresting, detaining, or harassing the applicant, pending the determination of the motion on notice.

The interim order was sequel to an affidavit of urgency filed by the applicant on the same date.

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