NIS says Ex- Gov. Odili is under watch list as he sue over seized passport

Former Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili has dragged the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), before the Federal High Court over the seizure of his International Passport.

But in sharp response, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said it seized  Odili’s International Passport because  the Ex Gov was under the watch list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The NIS disclosed this  on Wednesday in its counter affidavit filed in court in response to Odili that is among others, querying the seizure of his international passport by officials of the agency.

In a counter-affidavit filed by its lawyer, Jimoh Adamu, the NIS justified the seizure of Odili’s passport and faulted his claims in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/965/2021.
“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).
“It is the government’s policy that streamlines the security agencies present at the point of entry/exit from the country. The respondents (NIS and its Comptroller-General) are the lead agency for the above stated function.
“All security agencies collaborate by submitting list of any person on the watch list to the respondents.
“The respondents are to carry out the function at the point of entry/exit. The applicant (Odili) was watch listed at the request by the EFCC.
“By the virtue of Section 31 of the Immigration Act 2015, the respondents are empowered to prevent the departure from Nigeria where there is a request to arrest such a person in the public interest as requested in the instant case by the EFCC.
“By the above section of the Immigration Act, the respondents are empowered to seize the applicant’s international passport because he was watch listed sequel to EFCC requested,” it said.
In faulting the competence of the suit, the NIS argued that it was pre-matured as Odili allegedly failed to meet the condition precedent to the filing of such suits.
“This action is premature and incompetent as the applicant fails to serve pre-action notice on the service as condition precedent before filing this suit against the respondents.
“The failure to serve pre-action notice robs this honourable court of jurisdiction.
“The applicant is not entitled to the reliefs sought and the suit should be dismissed with substantial cost for failure to comply with condition precedent.”
Odili, in his fundamental rights enforcement suit, gave details of how an unnamed NIS official accosted him at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and requested for his passport.
He wants the court to among others, direct the NIS and its Comptroller-General to return his passport, restrain them further further harassing and intimidating him and to order them to write a written apology to him “for the embarrassment occasioned by the unlawful seizure of the applicant’s international passport.”
Odili, in his supporting affidavit, gave details of how his passport was seized thus: “In the early hours of Sunday 20th June, 2021 at about 5am, I returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom where I had gone for my medicals, through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“My travel documents, including my Nigerian international passport No: B50031305 were checked and given back to me, by the immigration officials.
“However, while waiting for my luggage, an official of the immigration service came over to me and demanded for my international passport aforesaid.
“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.”
At the mention of the case on Wednesday, respondents’ lawyer, Jimoh Adamu told the court that his clients have filed a counter affidavit, but which was filed out of time.
Without any objection by Odili’s lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted the respondents’ request to regularise the process filed out of time.
Justice Mohammed then adjourned till September 28 for hearing, before which Adedipe was to file his client’s response to the respondents’ Counter-Reformation t
It was however silent on why the ex-Governor was placed on its watch list following a request to the effect by the EFCC.