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

 

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay a German, Martin Gegenheimer N63.7million and $10000 awarded against the Nigerian government for his unlawful arrest and detention by men of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

In a ruling on Thursday, February 22, Justice Inyang Ekwo 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 rejected CBN’s claim that the Fed Govt’s foreign exchange accounts were currently in deficit, making it impossible to pay the entire judgment sum.

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 do not qualify as foreign judgment in the strict sense of it 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 judgment sought to be enforced in this case, is stricto sensu (in the strict sense) a foreign judgment.

“I agree with the learned counsel for the judgment 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 judgment of ECOWAS Court can be registered and enforced in Nigeria by this court without referring to it as a foreign judgment, in the same manner, that the judgment of any other court in Nigeria can be registered and enforced in this court.”

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

The German, who said he visited Nigeria on a business trip, stated that while returning to Kenya on 23rd February 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 February 23, 2020, and March 4, 2020, despite the COVID protocol and without acceptable food as well as 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.

They 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 Germans while under forced detention by agents of the Nigerian government.

The court further ordered the Nigerian government to pay him another N10m in general damages as reparation for all violations and moral prejudice suffered for violating his rights, and an additional $10,000 was 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.


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