The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ordered the Nigerian government to pay a German national, N53,650,925 as special damages for various losses suffered and costs incurred while under unlawful arrest and detention by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).
The costs, the court said, relate mainly to hotel expenses incurred by the German, Martin Gegenheimer, while under forced detention by 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 the violation of his rights, and addition $10,000 being the expenditure incurred by the applicant to secure his bail.
In the judgment delivered by a panel of three judges, headed by the court’s President, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, the 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.
The court however ruled that it found no evidence of the violation of the plaintiff’s right to freedom from torture.
The court rejected the counter-arguments and preliminary objection filed against the suit by the Nigerian government, through its lawyer, Mallam J.A, Adamu.
The judgment was on the suit marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/23/20, filed for the German by his Nigerian lawyers, Festus Ogwuche and Daniel Makolo.
The German, who is married to a Nigerian citizen but based in Nairobi, Kenya, stated that he legally entered Nigeria for business purposes, on the invitation of a firm, SAT Swiss Aviation Nigeria Ltd.
He contended that he was wrongfully arrested and detained while on his way back to Kenya resulting in the violation of his rights to fair hearing, freedom of movement and dignity of his human person.
The applicant added that he had lived in and outside Nigeria and carries on business in Nigeria, Kenya and Africa at large since 1990 and was requested to come to Nigeria for business negotiations so he obtained the necessary approvals for visa on arrival to legally enter Nigeria.
He stated that he arrived at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Ikeja, Lagos via Kenya airways flight number KQ 532 on 9th of February 2020 and was officially issued with a one month business visa number E0014938 at the visa on arrival counter by the officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
He further averred that while returning to his home base in Kenya on 23rd February 2020, he was stopped at the boarding gate of the Kenya Airways aircraft after all necessary departure formalities were completed, arrested, his passport seized and detained in a jam-packed detention cell between 23rd February, 2020 and 4th March, 2020 despite the Covid protocol and without acceptable food as well as medical care.
The applicant alleged that he was not informed about any justifying circumstances recognized by law, and neither was a warrant of arrest nor court order produced as the basis for his arrest and detention. Moreover, he alleged that he was not afforded the opportunity of fair hearing before any lawful authority or competent court.
It was not until the March 4, 2020, he said, that an administrative bail was secured for him in the face of the pending lockdown in Abuja due to the Covid-19 pandemic, under very stringent condition which included periodic reporting at the detention centre while his German passport was retained in the explicit custody of the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service.
The applicant contend that the retention of his passport had the effect of keeping him in perpetual detention in Nigeria as he could neither continue his business nor return to his family in Kenya, adding that he was not told of the nature of the allegations against him nor charged for any offense.
He averred that he had to rely on the services of a professional Immigration Consultant to secure his release and after spending over $20 000.00 in employing different lawyers, but has since then been confined to Abuja where he had been staying in a hotel.