The Federal High Court in Lagos Wednesday, awarded cost against the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in a suit filed by a businessman, Igwe Dennis Nwaokpara, alleging extraordinary rendition from Kenya and a five-year illegal seizure of his international passport.
Justice Yellim Bogoro ordered the NIS to pay N50,000 for foisting an adjournment on the court, following its unpreparedness to commence defence of Nwaokpara’s N12billion damages application.
The judge made the order after taking arguments from Nwaokpara’s counsel, Mr. Ademola Owolabi and the NIS’ lawyer Mr. Mufutau Gbadamosi.
Nwaokpara, a retired naval personnel asks the court to compel the NIS to pay him N12b as damages for its role in his alleged illegal removal from Kenya and the seizure of his International passport.
The applicant, who runs an agro-allied business in the East African country, alleged that the Kenyan Immigration Service returned him to Nigeria hours after he arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, following a request by the NIS.
He told the court, in his fundamental rights application in suit mumber FHC/L/ C3/895/2022 filed through his counsel Owolabi, that the incident happened on June 10, 2017
Nwaokpara claimed further that he was then detained and handed over by the NIS to the Police Special Fraud Unit, adding that there was no court proceeding before the “extraordinary rendition”.
He added that despite his detention for months, the Police established no allegation against him, following which he was released. He said upon his release from SFU custody, the NIS refused to return his passport.
According to him, his extraordinary rendition/arrest and/or detention and confiscation of his passport were unlawful.
At the commencement of proceedings, Owolabi told Justice Bogoro that the case was for hearing, adding that the NIS was served the motion on notice in June and and hearing notice informing them about today’s proceeding which was duly acknowledged acknowledged. He prayed for court’s permission to move his application.
Responding, Gbadamosi said he had just heard of the case for the first time, adding that he was not with the case file and thus could not go on.The defence counsel prayed for an adjournment. “In the interest of justice, we pray the court for a very short adjournment to enable us to put our house in order,” Gbadamosi said.
But Owolabi opposed him., saying”We served them since June and got hearing notice this month. They cannot be holding both ends of the stick. We urge the court to discountenance their argument and grant that we move our application. They are holding his passport and his right to travel has been abridged; it favours them to say they have just been informed.
“Should the court be mindful of granting an adjournment, we pray for an order that the applicant’s passport is deposited with the court’s registrar pending the hearing of the application. We are also asking for cost of N150,000.
“We’ve been asking them for the passport since 2017, we pray the court to strike a balance by asking for it to be deposited in the court’s registry. The facts are clear; he was illegally renditioned from Kenya. Even the Nnamdi Kanu case is better, because there is no judicial precedent for this (applicant’s matter). It is a case of gross impunity and abuse of power, the type that did not happen even in colonial times. The applicant’s family and business are in Kenya. He was brought back in a humiliating manner and can’t go back.”
Following the defendant’s concession to cost, Justice Bogoro awarded N50,000 cost against the NIS. The judge declined to make any order as to the passport and adjourned till December 15 for hearing of the plaintiff’s application.
Nwaokpara is praying the court for nine reliefs, including a declaration that his arrest in Kenya and refusal to produce him before a Kenyan court for extradition were unlawful.
He is also seeking a declaration that his alleged “deportation/extraordinary rendition” was illegal, adding that the confiscation of his international passport Ao6128442 since June 13, 2017, was unlawful, and unconstitutional.
He further prayed, among others, for an order directing the NIS to “forthwith” release the International Passport as well as an order directing the NIS to write to the Kenyan Immigration Service that he is neither a criminal nor was being investigated by the Federal Government.
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