Sanusi Fundamental Rights Suit: Court Orders Sanusi’s Passport Released, Awards N50m Damages

Sanusi Fundamental Rights Suit: Court Orders Sanusi’s Passport Released, Awards N50m Damages

Suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, wins fundamental rights case in Lagos court.

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, April 3, has restrained the Nigeria Police, State Security Service and Attorney General of the Federation from arresting or harassing Sanusi. The court ordered to immediately release ex-governor's passport and award him N50m in exemplary damages. The respondents in the suit are also to make a public apology for their unlawful actions.

Sanusi’s passport was seized on February 20 when he arrived at the Lagos international airport, hours after he had been suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan over allegations of "financial recklessness".

The former governor was also briefly detained. 

Sanusi, in separate suits, challenged his suspension and asked the court to restrain the police and the SSS from arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing him in the end of February.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Ibrahim Buba dismissed a preliminary objection filed by Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) on behalf of the AGF, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.

Ajogwu had argued that the suit was wrongly instituted before the Federal High court, since the matter bordered on the employment of the applicant, and so, should be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court.

Justice Buba, however, held that the applicant 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.

It stated that the SSS and the AGF had presented conflicting averments in their counter affidavits, which shows that they are not on the same page on the issue, and had acted in bad faith.

The averment of the police was said to be frugal, as the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) stated that his agency had not been briefed by anyone to investigate or arrest Sanusi.


The court declared that the AGF and the SSS were not empowered to forcefully withdraw and keep Sanusi's passport for any reason. 

The court also stated that the arrest of Sanusi by the SSS was conducted "without due allegation or suspicion of a crime" and was as such "unlawful violation of his right to personal liberty".

The court ordered the immediate release of Sanusi's passport and awarded a N50m of an exemplary damages against him.

Conflicting claims


During the hearing of the rights’ suit on March 31, Monday, the respondents – the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) the Police, and the SSS – made different claims.

Announcing the judgement on the main suit, the court held that from the totality of averments in the applicant’s originating summons, the respondents had failed to answer all the questions raised.

"This court believes that the action of the respondents in this suit, deserves condemnation and exemplary damages."

"[T]he forceful seizure and detention of applicant’s passport, is an unlawful violation of his right to freedom of movement, enshrined in section 35 of the 1999 Constitution and article 12 of the Charter on Human and Peoples Right Act," reads the judgement in part.

"An order of this court is hereby made restraining the respondent, their agents, privies or any other law enforcement agency of the respondents, from further interfering, harassing or infringing on the personal liberty of the applicant."

"An order is also made, directing the respondent to make a public apology to the applicant for unlawful arrest, detention and harassment," Justice Buba said.

The SSS accused Sanusi of financing terrorism, which the ex-governor denied.

The SSS counsel, Moses Idakwo, said Sanusi’s interaction with SSS officials lasted less than an hour and did not constitute a violation of his rights.

He also said that the provisions of Section 6 of the National Security Agencies’ Act empowered the SSS to impound the international passport of suspects pending the conclusion of investigations.

It is not clear how this fresh allegation by the SSS is related to the dubious claims by Reno Omokri, the Special Assistant to the president.

A journalist investigation had exposed how Omokri, using a non-existent alias, Wendell Simlin, created a document linking Sanusi with financing the terrorist Boko Haram group.

Sanusi’s counsel, Kola Awodehin, accused the SSS of falsehood in its new claim against the bank chief, saying the agency had no shred of evidence.

The counsel to the AGF, Fabian Ajogwu, had objected to the suit, urging the court to strike it out for want of jurisdiction.

He noted that the case before the court borders on the applicant’s employment, saying that labour-related cases are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court, NIC.

Ajogwu also argued that the applicant should not, by the suit, seek to restrain the respondents from performing their constitutional duties. 

In turn, the police said it was not investigating the former CBN chief at all. The counsel to the police, David Abuo, said nobody ever reported Sanusi to the police.

He, however supported Ajogwu's claim that the case should be struck out as, he said, it seeks to bar government agencies from performing their duties.

Sanusi's counsel Awodehin, however, opposed this argument saying 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.

Awodehin also argued that the different submissions by the three respondents showed that laws were being violated in Sanusi’s treatment.

It will be recalled that Sanusi was suspended by Jonathan over allegations of misconduct of the Central Bank. The former CBN governor, however, rejected the claims against him, insisting he was removed for revealing that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had allegedly underremitted $20bn in oil revenue to the Federation Account.



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