By Babajide Okeowo
A Federal High Court in the Abuja division has adjourned ex-Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili’s suit against the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS due to the absence of Defence counsel in court.
Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the matter till February 7, for the defence counsel to come before the court and show cause why further orders should not be made upon his professional misconduct.
When the matter was called up, Jimoh Adamu, the defence counsel was absent in court. Babagana Abba who held brief for him told the court that he could not make it to court because he was ill.
Abba apologized to the court for Mr Adamu’s absence in court as a result of ill health. His absence in court today makes it the second time the defence counsel has been absent in court for the trial.
The judge who gave the lawyer a second chance, ordered that he must appear before the court on the next adjourned date to show cause.
“This honourable court knows what to do and how to do it but in the interest of fair hearing, I am giving him another chance. Let him deny himself fair hearing, then, the court will take necessary steps,” Justice Ekwo said.
At the last adjourned date, the judge ordered the Attorney General of the Federation to take disciplinary action against him for professional misconduct due to his absence in court.
Recall that Odili had filed a suit challenging the unlawful seizure of his international passport by the operatives of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
On June 20, 2021, Mr Odili’s international passport was seized by operatives of the Immigration upon arrival from a trip to the United Kingdom.
Failure of the immigration to return the seized passport, Mr Odili filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit through his lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) seeking an order of the court mandating the respondent to return the passport of his client on the grounds that it was unlawfully seized.
On October 18, the court ordered the immigration to return Mr Odili’s passport. That order is yet to be obeyed till date.
In December 2021, the court ordered the Immigration Service to pay the sum of N2 million for holding on to the passport of Mr Odili, despite a court order for its release.
Justice Ekwo held that immigration should pay the said sum for not obeying the order of the court to release the seized passport.
Adedipe had argued that the EFCC is not a body that can instruct Immigration to seize a passport in place of a court order.