Lagos — A Lagos Federal High Court yesterday ordered the federal government and its agents to pay suspended Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, N50 million as exemplary damages for illegal detention and seizure of his international passport.
Justice Ibrahim Buba who gave the verdict on the enforcement suit filed by Sanusi, also ordered the State Security Service and the police to instantly release his passport.
He also ordered the government and its agents to tender an unreserved public apology to Sanusi for his unlawful arrest, harassment, intimidation and passport seizure.
Justice Buba dismissed a preliminary objection filed by Dr Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit, saying the provisions of Section 11 of the Labour Act cannot remove the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
He held that the provisions of Section 251 of the constitution vested jurisdiction on the court to entertain matters touching on enforcement of fundamental human rights.
According to him, Sanusi had brought the suit under the provisions of chapter 4 of the constitution seeking an enforcement of his rights, and so, is not a dispute relating to his terms of employment.
"The averment by the respondent that the matter is labour related is far from the truth, the first respondent is trying to set up another case for the applicant, it is a case of "shifting the goal post" and making a case for the applicant. The facts deposed in the applicant's originating summons and his affidavit speak for itself, it is a suit for enforcement of his fundamental right which is recognisable by the federal high court. The court allows any person who perceives that his rights are likely to be infringed on, to approach it for redress", he said.
The court therefore dismissed the preliminary objection of the AGF, holding that it had jurisdiction to hear and determine Sanusi's suit. In his verdict on the main suit, he held that from the totality of averments in Sanusi's originating summons, there was no doubt that the government and its agents (respondents) had failed to answer all the questions raised. He held that the first and third respondents presented conflicting averments in their counter affidavits which showed that they were not on the same page on the issue, and had acted in bad faith.
The averment of the second respondent is frugal, as it stated clearly that they had not been briefed by anyone to investigate or arrest Sanusi. "The first respondent laboured to submit that the applicant is not entitled to a grant of perpetual injunction, but this court is of the opinion that for every infraction, the applicant is entitled to a relief. This court believes that the action of the respondents in this suit deserves condemnation and exemplary damages", he said.
The State Security Service (SSS) said yesterday it will appeal the judgement.