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Court stops Police, EFCC from searching Wike’s Abuja residence

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday restrained the Nigeria Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the State Security Service from searching the Abuja, Asokoro, residence of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, saying that any attempt to search the House is illegal, null and void.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by Governor Wike . Beside declaring the search warrant illegal, the Court also barred the security agencies from executing any search warrant at the residence of Governor Wike

Wike had on May 4, 2017, dragged the IGP, police, EFCC and SSS to court, following moves by the defendants to investigate him while in office as a governor.

Delivering his judgement in the suit marked ABJ/FHC/CS/383/2017, Justice Mohammed held that it was gratifying to note that parties are in agreement that the plaintiff cannot be prosecuted based on the provision of section 308(1) of 1999 Constitution (as amended) notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

The court stated that from the combined reading of section 308 of the Constitution, and sections 149 and 150 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, three situations have been prohibited.

Justice Mohammed noted that the provisions stipulated that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against a person protected by section 308.

Secondly, the person covered by the provisions shall not be arrested, and thirdly, any process of court requiring appearance of a person protected under the provisions shall not be applied.

Justice Mohammed said that the 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 held that the argument of the police and EFCC that Wike’s residence can be searched without his presence “is untenable”.

The judge said it was wrong for the defendants to import meaning or interpretation not included in section 308 of the 1999 Constitution by the draftsman.

Dismissing the objection of the defendants against the suit , the judge held that the court could not go contrary to section 308 of the Constitution because of the public policy principle, which is protected by the Constitution itself.

The court further held that arguments of 2nd and 3rd defendants that their enabling laws permit them to carry out investigations are untenable.

In addition, the court noted that the essence of section 308 was to accord immunity to a serving governor so as not to cause distractions to the governor in the act of governance.

Therefore, Justice Mohammed held that the suit of the plaintiff has succeeded and has merit.

Consequently, the court granted the following reliefs against the defendants:

• The court declared that by virtue of the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the defendants and their agents cannot 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.

•A declaration 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.

• An order 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.

But the court declined relief 4, 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).

The Daily Times recalls that the plaintiff’s lawyer , Sylva Ogwemoh (SAN), had submitted that section 308 (immunity clause) as provided under the constitution “is put in place to allow a serving governor to concentrate on act of governance.

Ogwemoh had argued that the section was designed to protect the dignity of office of a governor.

He insisted that based on sections 149 and 150 of ACJA, the plaintiff (Wike) must be present before a search warrant is executed at his residence.

The lawyer added that allowing the defendants to execute a search at the Abuja residence or any house of Wike in any part of the country “is a blatant violation of section 308, insisting that the governor needs not to wait until his constitutional right is breached”.

But in opposition to the suit, the defendants had argued that they have right to search Wike’s Abuja residence in his absence.

They posited that Wike had admitted that he does not live in the Abuja lodge, and therefore his presence is not required before a search can be executed.

Moreso, the 2nd defendant had argued that based on section 4 of Police Act, it has discretion to search the residence of the plaintiff.

In addition, the defendants, in urging the court to dismiss the suit, stated that Wike did not place anything on record to show that the police wanted to search his residence.

“Therefore, the suit of the plaintiff is only speculative and academic” the defendants added.

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