The Department of State Security Service (SSS), on Monday claimed that the international passport of suspended Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was seized due to suspicion that he is allegedly financing terrorism.
The claim was made before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, where Sanusi filed a suit for the enforcement of his fundamental rights in the wake of his suspension from office by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Service, in its preliminary objection to the suit, said its decision to seize Sanusi’s international passport on February 20 as he arrived at the Lagos international airport was due to the said allegation.
Counsel for SSS, Moses Idakwo noted that its client was investigating Sanusi for allegedly financing terrorism, adding that his interaction with SSS officials did not last one hour and could not constitute a violation of his rights.
He said the provisions of Section 6 of the National Security Agencies’ Act empowered the Service to impound the international passport of suspects pending the conclusion of investigations.
Counsel for Sanusi, Kola Awodehin, SAN, however countered the claim, saying it lacked substance, with no evidence to back such up.
Counsel for the AGF, Fabian Ajogwu, while objecting to the suit, urged the court to strike it out for want of jurisdiction.
Ajogwu argued that the provisions of Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) ousted the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He noted that the case before the court bordered on the applicant’s employment, saying that labour -related cases are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court (NIC).
“Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the Constitution vests exclusive jurisdiction on the National Industrial Court, with respect to civil causes or matters touching on employment, labour or industrial relations.
“We respectfully urge the court to hold that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the reliefs sought by the applicant,” he said.
Ajogwu also argued that the applicant should not, by the suit, seek to restrain the respondents from performing their constitutional duties.
He argued that Sanusi was being investigated based on the FRCN’s claims, adding that the suspended bank chief was being investigated in accordance with the provisions of the law, which the respondents had a statutory duty to perform.
Citing Adeniran vs Alao, Ajogwu submitted that a perpetual injunction would be everlasting which no court could grant.
“The applicant’s case is basically an action to shield him from the machinery of administration of justice, which has been kick-started by the respondents,” Ajogwu said.
The police, in their processes, said it was not investigating the CBN boss because nobody reported him to them.
Counsel for the Force, David Abuo, said the suit could not stand because it sought to bar government agencies from performing their duties.
Responding to the respondents’ preliminary objection, Awodehin submitted that the court was vested with the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He argued that the suit had nothing to do with the terms of employment of the applicant or industrial relations, since it was not a case of the applicant against the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He argued that the applicant never sought an order of perpetual injunction, adding that the reliefs he sought were qualified.
“It cannot be suggested that the applicant is restraining the respondents from performing their duties, but they must be restrained from doing so without due process of the law.
“The seizure of the applicant’s international passport by the third respondent is a derogation of his freedom of movement,” he said.
Awodehin also argued that the different submissions by the three respondents showed that laws were being violated in Mr Sanusi’s treatment.
“The first to third respondents gave conflicting reasons as to the complaint made against the applicant.
“This conflict goes to show that they acted without due process of the law,” he said.
The counsel also argued that the SSS’ claim of financing terrorism was bogus.
“The allegation against the applicant as to the funding of terrorism is an afterthought by the respondents, which is not backed by facts, as there is no reasonable suspicion that the applicant committed any crime,” he said.
He urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection and uphold the case of the applicant.
The court had on February 21 granted an interim order, restraining the respondents from arresting, detaining, or harassing the applicant pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The interim order was sequel to an affidavit of urgency filed by the applicant on the same date. On Monday, the court adjourned ruling on the preliminary objection till April 4.