Seinye Lulu-Briggs: FHC fines EFCC, NIS N15m over unlawful travel ban and seizure of passport

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Orders public apology to her in two national newspapers.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and  Nigeria Immigration Service have been ordered by the Federal High Court to pay the sum of N15m over the unlawful seizure of a passport belonging to the Chief Executive of Moni Pulo Limited, Dr. Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs.

The order was given on Monday, 21 February, 2022 by Justice Ayokunle Faji, the Presiding Judge of the Lagos Division of the Federal High in a fundamental rights suit filed by Seinye Lulu-Briggs.

The suit marked FHC/L/CS/147/2020, was filed against the COMPTROLLER-GENERAL OF IMMIGRATION; NIGERIAN IMMIGRATION SERVICE and the EFCC by the plaintiff over infringement of her fundamental rights.

In course of the judgment, counsel to the 1st and 2nd Respondents being the Comptroller General of Immigration and the Nigerian Immigration Service were present while Counsel to the 3rd Respondent, the EFCC, was absent.

In its Judgment, the Court dismissed the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Notice of Preliminary Objection and held that the originating processes were duly served on the 1st and 2nd Respondents. The Court also dismissed the 3rd Respondent’s Preliminary Objection and held that the act of initiating two separate actions in Lagos and Abuja on the basis that the infringement took place in Lagos and Abuja amounts to an abuse of court process.

On the merits, the Court held that:

“The 1st and 2nd Respondents can prohibit the movement of any person where there is a certified order of a court of competent jurisdiction or if there is a warrant of arrest. A warrant of arrest can only be issued by a Judge or Magistrate. The letter from the 3rd Respondent directing the arrest of the Applicant did not constitute a warrant of arrest in any form or manner and cannot be a basis for restricting the movements of the Applicant. The law permits the 1st and 2nd Respondents from preventing a person from leaving Nigeria and not to prevent him from entering or delay his entry into the country. The acts of the Respondents against the Applicant in restricting her movements were done without lawful justification. The Respondents did not comply with the provisions of the law in inhibiting the movements of Applicant to and from Nigeria. The actions of the Respondents and seizure of the Applicant’s passport are in clear violation of Section 35 of the Constitution and declared null and void.

“The travel ban on the Applicants by the 1st and 2nd Respondents by way of a watchlist is a violation of the Applicant’s right to fair hearing as she was not allowed to make representations before she was placed on the said travel ban.

“The fact that the 3rd Respondent foisted the doing of an illegal act on the 1st and 2nd Respondents does not give the 1st and 2nd Respondents the cover for illegality. The 1st and 2nd Respondents are both as liable if not more culpable than the 3rd Respondent.

“Award of the sum of N15,000,000.00 (Fifteen Million Naira) in favour of the Applicant as exemplary damages, jointly and severally against each of the Respondents.

“Each of the Respondents to publish an apology to the Applicant in two national newspapers and in particular either The Guardian or The Punch Newspaper.”

Dr. Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs is said to have endured repeated harassments by the respective Respondents. The judgement is being viewed as a victory for all citizens of Nigeria and follows similar pronouncements of the court in recent times.

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