Passport Seizure: Court to hear El-Zakzaky, wife’s N4bn suit January 19

Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky

The Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed January 19, 2022 to hear the suit filed by the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, over the seizure of their passports.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the judge, Inyang Ekwo, on Friday, fixed the date to allow the Attorney-General of the Federation and the State Security Service (SSS), sued as defendants in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, to respond to the suit.

The AGF, Abubakar Malami, according to NAN, was represented by Oyin Koleoso, but no lawyer appeared for the SSS.

Marshall Abubakar, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, informed the court that the 1st respondent had been duly served with the processes and the hearing notice.

He pushed for the hearing to go on, but the judge chose to adjourn the hearing to enable the respondents “keep their house in order.”

He then fixed January 19, 2022, for hearing of the suits.

He also directed the applicants to ensure that hearing notices are issued to the respondents.

The couple had said in their separate suits that their passports were seized from them after they returned from a government-supervised medical trip to India in 2019.

Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife were then standing trial at the Kaduna State High Court on charges of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, among charges filed against them in connection to the bloody clash between IMN members and soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State, in December 2015.

They were, however, freed of the charges, with the Kaduna court declaring them not to have any case to answer in a July 28 ruling.

An upset Kaduna government then threatened to take the case back to court.

Meanwhile, the couple said, in their rights enforcement suits, that the Indian trip “was supervised and controlled” by the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the SSS.

The trip “was aborted for reasons best known to the federal government,” the couple said, adding that their passports and other travelling documents were then taken from them “and kept in the custody of the respondents.”

Following the Kaduna court’s ruling, the couple’s lawyer, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), wrote separate letters to the NIA, the SSS, and the AGF, demanding the release of their passports allegedly seized after the Indian trip.

The NIA denied holding their passports in its reply to Mr Falana’s letter.

The couple said in their suit that while NIA replied to their letter, both the SSS and the AGF ignored them.

They, therefore, argued that the action of the SSS and the AGF violated their fundamental right to “freedom of movement guaranteed by Section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Act (CAP A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

In the suits filed on October 14, the couple urged the court to declare that the seizure of their passports was “illegal and unconstitutional.”

The plaintiffs also urged the court to declare that the “Red Flag Travelling Restrictions” placed on their passports and land borders by the respondents without a court order is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates their right to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

They, therefore, asked the court to declare that the refusal of the SSS and the AGF to allow them to travel abroad for medical treatment “constitutes a threat to their lives guaranteed by Section 33 of the Nigerian constitution”.

The “Red Flag Travel Restrictions” placed on Mr El-Zakzaky’s passport with number A50578740 and that of Zeenah numbered A50578739 violates their rights, their lawyer argued.

Each of them asked the court to order the respondents to pay them N2 billion, totalling N4 billion, “as general and exemplary damages” for the violation of their “rights to freedom of movement, fair hearing and property”.

They also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further violating their “fundamental rights in any manner whatsoever and howsoever without lawful justification.” (NAN)


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