Alleged unlawful detention: Court orders CBN to pay German N63.7m, $10000 awarded against FG

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay a German, Martin Gegenheimer, the sum of N63.7 million and $10, 000 awarded against the Federal Government for alleged unlawful arrest and detention by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling, ordered the CBN to deduct the amount from the Federal Government’s funds in its custody to settle the debt that arose from a 2021 judgment given against Nigeria by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Justice Ekwo dismissed the CBN’s claim that the Federal Government’s foreign exchange accounts were currently in deficit, thereby making it impossible to pay the entire judgment sum.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the ruling was on a garnishee proceeding, marked FHC/ABJ/NJR/M/3/2022, filed and prosecuted for Gegenheimer by his lawyer, Daniel Makolo, to enforce the judgment of the ECOWAS Court delivered on March 4, 2021.

Justice Ekwo agreed with Makolo that, as against the contention by the CBN, the ECOWAS Court’s judgments did not qualify as foreign judgments in the strict sense of the word and could be enforced by Nigerian courts.

The judge said: Upon a keen perusal of the provisions of the Foreign Judgments Reciprocal Enforcement (FJRE) Act 2004, it cannot be said that the judgement sought to be enforced in this case is stricto sensu (in the strict sense) a foreign judgement.

“I agree with the learned counsel for the judgement creditor (Makolo) that, by Article 15 of the Reviewed Treaty of ECOWAS and Article 24 of the 2005 Supplementary Protocol (which amended the 1991 Protocol), the judgement of the ECOWAS Court can be registered and enforced in Nigeria by this court without referring to it as a foreign judgement, in the same manner that the judgement of any other court in Nigeria can be registered and enforced in this court,” the judge said.

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Justice Ekwo proceeded to make absolute the garnishee order nisi he earlier issued against the CBN.

NAN reports that in his affidavit, the German, who said he visited Nigeria on a business trip, stated that while returning to Kenya on February 23, 2020, he was stopped by men of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) at the boarding gate of the Kenya Airways aircraft after all necessary departure formalities were completed.

He said the NIS officials arrested him, seized his passport, and detained him in a jam-packed detention cell between Feb. 23, 2020, and March 4, 2020, despite the COVID protocol and without acceptable food or medical care.

He subsequently challenged his arrest and detention before the ECOWAS Court in a suit marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/23/2020.

In the March 4, 2021 judgment, a three-member panel of the sub-regional court, presided over by the court’s president, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, declared Gegenheimer’s arrest and detention illegal.

He ordered the Nigerian government to pay him N53,650,925 as special damages for various losses suffered and costs incurred while under unlawful arrest and detention by the NIS.

The costs, the court said, relate mainly to hotel expenses incurred by the German while under forced detention by agents of the Nigerian government.

The court further ordered the Nigerian government to pay him another N10 million in general damages as reparation for all violations and moral prejudice suffered for the violation of his rights, with an additional $10,000 being the expenditure incurred by the applicant to secure his bail.

The ECOWAS Court equally ordered the Nigerian government to remove the German from its watch list and to immediately and unconditionally release his German passport, which was “arbitrarily and unlawfully” seized by agents of the Nigerian government.(NAN)

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