A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday stopped an alleged plan by the Nigerian Police Force to obtain a search warrant and execute same at the residences of River State governor, Nyesom Wike, in Abuja and other parts of the country.
Specifically, the court headed by Justice Ahmed barred the Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the State Security Service (SSS) from executing any search warrant at the å of Governor Wike.
Wike had in a suit marked ABJ/FHC/CS/383/2017 filed on May 4, 2017 dragged the IGP, Police, EFCC and SSS (1st-4th defendants respectively) to court following alleged moves by the defendants to investigate him while in office as governor.
Delivering his judgement on the matter, Justice Ahmed held that it was gratifying to note that parties are in agreement that the plaintiff cannot be investigated based on the provision of section 308(1) of 1999 Constitution (as amended), notwithstanding anything to the contrary.
The judge held that a court process such as a search warrant could not be issued a governor who enjoys immunity under section 308 of the constitution.
Justice Mohammed noted that the provisions stipulate that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against a person protected by section 308.
Besides, he noted that the person covered by the provisions shall not be arrested and that any process of court requiring appearance of a person protected under the provisions shall not be applied.
Justice Mohammed ruled that parties, in their submissions, lost the purport and intendment of section 308 (1) (c) of the constitution.
He held that “a careful reading of section 308(1) (c) shows that the constitution has prohibited court process requiring appearance of a serving governor before any investigative panel”.
Justice Mohammed stated that the argument of the Police and EFCC that Wike’s residence can be searched without his presence is untenable.
The judge said it is wrong for the defendants to import meaning or interpretation not included in section 308 of the constitution by the draftsman. In dismissing the objection of the defendants to the suit, Justice Mohammed held that the court cannot go contrary to section 308 of the constitution because of the public policy principle, which is protected by the constitution itself.
The judge further held that arguments of the 2nd and 3rd defendants that their enabling laws permit them to carry out investigations are untenable.
In addition, he noted that the essence of section 308 is to accord immunity to a serving governor so as not to cause distractions to the governor in the act of governance.
Accordingly, Justice Mohammed held that the suit of the plaintiff (Wike) has merit and has succeeded.
Consequently, in granting the following reliefs against the defendants, the judge declared that “by virtue of the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the defendants cannot whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers, privies or in any manner howsoever apply for, obtain, issue or in any way or manner howsoever execute any court process requiring; the appearance of the plaintiff who is currently the Governor of Rivers state, Nigeria”.
He further declared that “by virtue of the combined effect of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and sections 149 and 150 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the defendants cannot whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers, privies or in any manner howsoever apply for, obtain, issue or in any way or manner howsoever execute any search warrant at the residence of the plaintiff in Abuja or in any of the plaintiff’s residence in any other place or locations in Nigeria where the issue and or execution of such search warrant would compel and or require the presence of the plaintiff who is the Governor of Rivers state of Nigeria”.
To this effect, the judge ordered that the defendants “whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers, privies or in any manner howsoever cannot by the combined effect of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and sections 149 and 150 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, apply for, obtain, issue or in any way or manner howsoever execute any search warrant at the residence of the plaintiff in Abuja or in any of the plaintiff’s residence in any other place or locations in Nigeria during the continuance of the plaintiff‘s tenure of office as the Governor of Rivers state, Nigeria”.
The court, however, declined relief four, which sought for an order that “any purported court process or any application for any court process, search warrant or any process of court by whatever name so called obtained by or being sought to be obtained by the defendants, their servants, agents, privies, officers or howsoever in so far as such court process or search warrant would have the effect of compelling or requiring the presence of the plaintiff in the course of such application and/or its execution while the plaintiff occupies the office of the governor of Rivers State, Nigeria is invalid, null, void and of no effect whatsoever”.
Also, Justice Mohammed refused relief 5, which prayed for an order of injunction “restraining the defendants whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers, privies or in any manner howsoever from applying for, issuing, entering upon the residence of the plaintiff in Abuja or anywhere else in Nigeria by virtue of a search warrant or any court process whatsoever which shall compel or require the physical presence of the plaintiff who is currently the Governor of Rivers state, Nigeria in order to search the said residence of the plaintiff and to remove from such residence/ premises any items whatsoever during the tenure of the plaintiff as Governor of Rivers state, Nigeria, in contravention of the plaintiff\’s immunity as preserved by section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)”.
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