LAGOS â€” THE Federal Government, yesterday, said it WAs investigating suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, on suspicions of being a major financier of terrorism in the country.
This was revealed by the Department of State Services, DSS, in a counter-affidavit to the suit filed by Sanusi before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, in which he is seeking to restrain the Police and operatives of DSS from arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing him.
The DSS told the court that it impounded Sanusiâ€™s international passport because of on-going investigations over alleged terrorism financing.
Further in the counter-affidavit, DSS argued that it was absurd for Sanusi to say that an interaction with DSS for less than an hour amounted to a violation of his rights.
It argued that the provisions of Section 6 of the National Security Agencies Act empowered the service to impound the international passports of suspects pending conclusion of investigations.
It would be recalled that upon Sanusiâ€™s arrival at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on February 20, the DSS impounded his international passport.
No evidence of such against me â€”Sanusi
However, Sanusi has denied being a financier of terrorists, insisting that the Federal Government had failed to substantiate the allegation of terrorism financing levelled against him.
Sanusi, who spoke through his counsel, Mr Kola Awodein, SAN, at the resumed hearing in his fundamental human rights enforcement suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos, said that apart from the mere allusion to the allegation of terrorism financing, the Federal Government never produced any evidence before the court to back up such claim.
The court adjourned till April 3, 2014 to rule on the fundamental rights suit by Sanusi.
Respondents in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Inspector-General of Police, IG and DSS.
Adoption of pending applications
Trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, adjourned for judgment after counsel representing parties argued their respective pending applications before the court.
Counsel to the AGF, Dr Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, who moved his preliminary objection to Sanusiâ€™s suit, urged the court to strike it out for want of jurisdiction.
He argued that the provisions of Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), ousted the courtâ€™s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He submitted that the case before the court bordered on the employment of the applicant, adding that matters which were labour-related, were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court, NIC.
â€œSection 254 (c) 1 (d) of the Constitution vests exclusive jurisdiction on the National Industrial Court, with respect to civil cases or matters touching on employment, labour or industrial relations.
â€œWe respectfully urge the court to hold that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the reliefs sought by the applicant, and strike out the suit,â€ he said.
Adopting his counter affidavit, Ajogwu argued that the applicant cannot by his suit, seek to restrain the respondents from performing their constitutional and statutory duties.
He argued that investigations were being made in accordance with the provisions of the law, on the applicant, for which the second and third respondents had a statutory duty to perform.
â€œMy lord, we respectfully submit that the applicant is not entitled to a grant of perpetual injunction, restraining the respondents from performing their constitutional duties,â€ he said.
Citing the judgment of retired Justice Niki Tobi of the Supreme Court in the case of Adeniran vs Alao, Ajogwu submitted that perpetual injunction is everlasting, incessant, interminable and so, cannot be granted by a court of law.
â€œA court cannot grant perpetual injunction on a mere prima facie case. The applicantâ€™s suit is basically an action to shield him from the machinery of administration of justice, which has been kick-started by the respondents.
â€œI therefore, urge your lordship, like the Biblical Pontius Pilate, to wash your hands off this case, as it is not the affairs of this honourable court,â€ Ajogwu submitted.
Counsel to the second and third respondents, Mr David Abuo and Mr Moses Idakwo, also associated themselves with the submissions of Ajogwu.
Court has jurisdiction to hear suit
Responding to the preliminary objection and counter-affidavit adopted by Ajogwu and counsel to other respondents, Awodein contended that the court was clearly vested with jurisdiction to hear the suit.
He argued that the suit had nothing to do with the terms of employment of the applicant or industrial relation as submitted by first respondent, since it was not a case of the applicant against the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Awodein noted that in construing the provisions of Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the constitution, the word â€œemploymentâ€ must be read together with other words listed therein, to appreciate its scope.
He argued that the applicant in his originating summons, never sought for an order of perpetual injunction, adding that the reliefs sought were qualified.
â€œIt 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 applicantâ€™s international passport by the third respondent is a derogation of his freedom of movement.
â€œThe first to third respondents give conflicting reasons as to the complaint made against the applicant: This conflict goes to show that they acted without due process of the law.
â€œThe allegations against the applicant as to funding of terrorism, is an after-thought by the respondent, which is not backed by facts, as there is no reasonable suspicion that the applicant committed any crime. The law clearly defines how such duties should be performed, and so, I invite your lordship to hold that the applicant has a cause of action against the respondent.â€
He drew the courtâ€™s attention to the provisions of Section 251 of the Constitution which provides in its preamble that â€œNotwithstanding anything to the contraryâ€” the Federal High Court shall have jurisdiction in civil cases.â€
He further contended that the provision of Section 254 (c) 1 (d) of the constitution, must be read subject to the provisions of Section 251.
He urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection of the respondents, and uphold the case of the applicant.
After listening to the submissions of all counsel, Justice Buba reserved ruling till April 3.
The court had on February 21 granted an interim order of injunction, restraining the respondents from arresting, detaining, or harassing the applicant, pending the determination of the motion on notice.