A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and its Comptroller General, Idris Isah Jere, to release the international passport of former Rivers State Governor Peter Odili within five days.

Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the order yesterday as a condition for the hearing of an application filed by the NIS and its Comptroller General for a stay of the court’s October 18, 2021 judgment which ordered them to release Odili’s passport and publish a written apology to him.

Lawyer to the NIS and its Comptroller General, Ibrahim Etsu, had told the court on Tuesday that his clients had filed an application seeking an order to stay the execution of the judgment pending the determination of their appeal.

After listening to Etsu, Justice Ekwo said he would hear the application on the condition that the applicants first release Odili’s passport and deposit it with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court within five days.

The judge then adjourned till January 13 for the hearing of the application.

Odili had sued the NIS and its Comptroller General, accusing them of unlawfully impounding his passport.

In a judgment on October 18, in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, Justice Ekwo held, among others, that the respondents (NIS and its Comptroller General) breached Odili’s rights by impounding his passport without an order of court empowering them to so act.

In their notice of appeal filed on November 19 by their lawyer, Jimoh Adamu, the NIS and its Comptroller General prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the October 18 judgment on the grounds that the judge erred in his interpretation of the law.

They raised two grounds of appeal: the first is that the trial judge was in error in assuming jurisdiction over the case, despite its glaring defects.

On the second ground, the NIS and its Comptroller General argued that Justice Ekwo erred in law when he ordered them to “immediately release and return the applicant’s international passport, with number B50031305 to him, and to write an apology to the applicant for the embarrassment occasioned by the unlawful seizure of his international passport”.

Part of the defects, they argued, was that the applicant’s names on suit were different from the names in the passport to which he was laying claim.

“The failure to comply with the provision of Section 109 of the Immigration Act 2015 robs the court below of the jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate on the suit,” they added.

The appellants argued that since Odili’s names, as reflected on the court documents, were different from the names on the passport, it was impossible for them to hand the passport to him.

“The respondent’s (Odili’s) names on record are different from the names on the international passport; accordingly, the suit is incompetent.

“The respondent cannot be issued with the international passport which is bearing different name from the name on the record.

“The appellants had lawful reason for the withdrawal and seizure of the respondent’s international passport. The appellants had justifiable reason to withdraw the respondent’s international passport,” the NIS and its Comptroller General said.