The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has awarded cost against the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in a suit filed by a retired naval personnel, Igwe Dennis Nwaokpara, alleging deportation/extraordinary rendition from Kenya and a five-year illegal seizure of his international passport.
Justice Yellim Bogoro gave the order for the NIS to pay N50,000 as cost after the Service forced an adjournment on the court, following its unpreparedness to commence defence of Nwaokpara’s N12billion Fundamental Rights Application.
Nwaokpara who runs an agro-allied business in the East African country, alleged that in June 2017, 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 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 International passport.
Through his lawyer, Ademola Owolabi, he asked the court to declare that his extraordinary rendition/arrest and/or detention and confiscation of his passport were unlawful.
He also wants the court to compel the NIS to pay him N12b as damages for its role in his alleged illegal removal from Kenya and the release of his International passport.
At the commencement of proceedings today, Mr 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 the court’s permission to move his application.
Responding, Counsel to the NIS, Mufutau Gbadamosi said he had only just heard of the matter and was yet to study the case file. He asked for a short adjournment to enable the NIS put its house in order.
But the counsel to the applicant opposed him. He asked the court to discountenance the arguments of the NIS and to allow him to move his 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 however 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.” Owolabi said.
After hearing from both parties, Justice Bogoro awarded N50,000 as 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 asking 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.