The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) says Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers state, is on the watch list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The NIS said this on Wednesday in its response to a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/965/2021, filed by Odili, in which he 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.
“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),” Adamu said.
“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 watchlisted sequel to EFCC requested.”
Giving details of how his passport was seized in his supporting affidavit, the former governor said: “In the early hours of Sunday 20th June 2021 at about 5 am, 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.”
Odili is praying the court to compel the two respondents to release the passport to him and seeking 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.
Ifedayo Adedipe, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is representing Odili.
Ahmed Mohammed, the presiding judge, has fixed September 28 to hear the matter.