Following what he described as the illegal seizure of his passport, Judge Ayokunle Faji of a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigeria Immigration Service to pay the sum of 15 million naira to a popular businesswoman, Seinye Lulu-Briggs. .
The judge issued the order following a fundamental rights action marked FHC/L/CS/147/2020 filed by Lulu-Briggs, who is the managing director of Moni Pulo Limited and
wife of the late oil tycoon, Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs.
The Comptroller General of the NIS and the EFCC were on the list of defendants in the action brought on his behalf by a team of lawyers led by Funke Agbor (SAN).
Counsel for the first and second defendants, the Comptroller General of Immigration and the NIS, were present while counsel for the third defendant, the EFCC, was absent.
In delivering his judgment, a copy of which was obtained by reporters in Abuja on Wednesday, the judge dismissed the first and second defendants’ preliminary notice of objection and ruled that the writs had been duly served on the defendants .
The Court also dismissed the third defendant’s preliminary objection and found that bringing two separate actions in Lagos and Abuja on the grounds that the infringement took place in Lagos and Abuja constituted an abuse of process.
Judge Faji held that the NES can only restrain the movement of any person if there is a certified order from a competent court or if there is an arrest warrant.
He maintained that an arrest warrant can only be issued by a judge or magistrate, adding that the seizure of Lulu-Briggs’ passport by the anti-corruption and immigration agency was illegal.
“The third defendant’s letter ordering the applicant’s arrest did not in any way constitute a warrant of arrest and cannot serve as a basis for restricting the applicant’s movements.
“The law allows the first and second defendants to prevent a person from leaving Nigeria and not to prevent them from entering or delay their entry into the country. The defendants’ acts against the plaintiff in restricting her movements were committed without legal justification,” he said.
The judge added that the EFCC and the NIS failed to comply with the provisions of the law in preventing the plaintiff’s movement to and from Nigeria.
He said: “The travel ban imposed on the applicants by the first and second defendants through a watch list constitutes a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial because she was not authorized to make performances before being placed on said travel ban.
“The fact that the third defendant imposed an illegal act on the first and second defendants does not give the first and second defendants the cover of illegality.
“The first and second defendants are both equally liable if not more culpable than the third defendant.”
Judge Faji awarded “the sum of N15 million in favor of the plaintiff as exemplary damages, jointly and severally against each of the defendants”.
He said that each of the respondents should publish apologies to the petitioner in two national newspapers and “in particular either The Guardian Where The punch Newspaper.”
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