Sunday Ejike – Abuja
A programme manager with a Non-Governmental Organisation, Benita Ezumezu has slammed a N5 million suit against the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Minister of Interior as general damages for all the losses incurred due to the non-issuance of her International Passport.
In an Originating Summons marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/75/2023, the plaintiff wants a court order, directing the Immigration Service to issue her International Passport to her as stipulated in Section 9(4) of the Immigration Act, 2015 as well as an order directing the Interior Minister to ensure adherence of the Immigration Service to issuance of passport forthwith as stipulated in the Immigration Act within six weeks announced by the minister and published by the Immigration Service’ website.
The plaintiff wants the court to declare whether or not she qualifies to be issued a passport. Whether or not the non issuance of passport to her 14 weeks after biometric enrollment contravened provisions of Section 9(4) of the Immigration Act, 2015 on issuance of passport.
“Whether or not the non issuance of passport to the applicant 14 weeks after biometric enrollment constitutes a contravention of applicant’s rights to freedom of movement guaranteed by the constitution and Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights”.
The applicant also seeks a declaration that Nigerian Passport is an official identity document that affirms the bearer’s citizenship and is issued to a bonafide Nigerian primarily for the purpose of travel out of Nigeria and return to Nigeria in exercise of rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement.
“A declaration that as at October 6, 2022, the applicant had fulfilled all the requirements for issuance of a Nigerian Passport and was therefore qualified to be issued a passport forthwith and not exceeding six weeks from that date”.
That the non issuance of her Nigerian Passport 14 weeks after she has met all the requirements constitutes a contravention of Section 9(4) of the Immigration Act, 2015 as it relates to issuance of International Passport forthwith.
She wants the court to declare that, the non issuance of Nigeria Passport to her 14 weeks after she had met the requirements violates her right to freedom of movement, and that the non issuance of her travel document 14 weeks after she had met the requirements had occasioned both monetary and professional losses to her.
The plaintiff wants a court declaration, directing the Immigration Service to issue her with an international passport forthwith.
An affidavit in support of the Originating Summons, deposed to by the plaintiff herself averred that she got invitation to Afrilab Annual gathering 22 in Zambia in October last year and aside from that, she will commence her post graduate studies overseas in 2023 and her Nigerian Passport will be required be for that purpose.
She averred that, “I am in the final stage of my consideration by the United States Embassy in Abuja as part of the 2023 cohort of highly competitive Young African Leaders Initiative Madela Washington Fellowship where I will travel for an all expense paid professional leadership development program in the U.S and other foreign programs and my Nigerian International Passport will be required for that purpose”.
That she came across a media report where the interior minister announced that Nigerian Passport would be processed and issued in six weeks and that the Service also published on its websites that the timeline for processing of passport is six weeks.
She said, in her efforts to attend her overseas programs, she applied for the International Passport, made official payment as required on August 15, 2022 adding that she noticed that progress on her application was stopped on 11th November, 2022.
According to her, the non issuance of her passport in six weeks stated by the respondents resulted into forfeiture of another opportunity to attend an event in Ghana from 7th-11th December, 2022 for which she was invited with accompanying financial benefits upon attendance.
“That on 11th January, 2023, which was about 14 weeks after I had my biometrics enrollment with the 1st respondent, I checked my passport status in the 1st respndent’s website and the generated passport application status showed the same update shown as at 21st December, 2022 that the passport production is still in progress.
“That the non issuance of my passport to me, denied me the opportunity to attend events in Lusaka, Zambia for which my organization had made payments for accommodation, flights and other related expenses”.
She said she is passing through untold hardship, including loss of career opportunities as a result of the non issuance of her International Passport and that, unless the reliefs sought in the suit bare granted, her fundamental right to freedom bof movement will be perpetually infringed upon.