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Court orders immediate release of Peter Odili’s passport seized by immigration

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has been ordered by a federal high court sitting in Abuja to immediately release the passport of Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers state.

The judge identified as Inyang Ekwo in a sentence passed on Monday held that there was no legal justification for the action the NIS took against the former governor.

Recall that Odili had approached the court to challenge the seizure of his passport by the NIS.

He told the court that his passport with number B50031305 was seized from him on June 20 by NIS officials for an undisclosed reason, shortly after he landed at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

“However, while waiting for my luggage, an official of the immigration service came over to me and demanded for my international passport aforesaid,” Odili stated in his affidavits in support of the suit.

“I demanded to know why he wanted it, and he stated that it was for a routine check, and that same will be given back to me the following day.

“No official explanation, other than the above conversation, was given to me. I gave him the passport, and up till now, same has not been returned to me.

“The seizure of my passport by the respondents has denied me movements in and out of Nigeria, thereby restricting my movement in violation of my constitutional right to freedom of movement.

“I know as a fact that I am a very senior citizen of Nigeria, law-abiding and I have done nothing to have warranted the seizure of my passport by the respondents.”

Odili had prayed the court to compel the two respondents to release the passport to him and he also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further harassing, embarrassing, intimidating or interfering with his fundamental right to freedom of movement.

The former governor also demanded a written apology from the immigration.

Cited as respondents in the matter are the NIS and its comptroller-general.

In its response to the suit, the NIS tried to justify the seizure of Odili’s passport, saying it was prompted by a request from the EFCC.

“The applicant’s passport was seized because he is on the service’s (NIS’) watch list as requested by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC),” the service had told the court.

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