A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, declared that the banishment of deposed Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II from Kano State was unlawful and unconstitutional.
Justice Anwuli Chikere, in a judgment, held that the Emirate Council Law, 2019, under which the state government claimed to have acted, was in conflict with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
According to Chikere, the constitution of this country is supreme and any law that is inconsistent with it shall be declared null and void.
She described the constitution as “the Alfa and Omega,” stating that all the three arms of government must ensure total obedience.
The judge said since the constitution is supreme, every other laws, including the Emirate Council Law, 2019, must queue behind it.
Chikere then declared that the banishment of Sanusi was a clear violation of his fundamental human rights to personal liberty and association.
The judge declared that the former emir, as a citizen of Nigeria, had the right to live anywhere, including Kano State, in accordance with the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
She noted that Sanusi was forcefully removed from the palace after his dethronement and taken to Abuja, and subsequently confined to Awe, a town in Nasarawa State, without a valid court order.
The judge described the action of the security operatives, acting on the order of the state government, as gross violation of the fundamental human rights of the ex-emir.
Sanusi was dethroned as Emir of Kano on March 9, 2020, and he was first taken to Abuja by the officers of the Nigerian police and the Department of State Services (DSS) before he was eventually confined to Awe.
The deposed emir, through his team of lawyers, had on March 12, 2020, sued the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police and Director-General of DSS as 1st and 2nd respondents respectively over what he called “unlawful detention/confinement.”
Also joined in the motion with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/357/2020 are the Attorney-General of Kano State and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 3rd and 4th respondents respectively.
Though the deposed emir had since been released from Awe after the court ruling on March 12, 2020 when the matter first came up, the originating motion was, however, determined by the court on Tuesday.
In the motion, the former emir had sought a declaration of the court that the respondents have no power to place him under house arrest, restrict his movement and eventually relocate him to anywhere either within or outside Kano State without a valid court order or his consent freely given.
“A declaration that the purported placing of the applicant (Sanusi) under house arrest and restricting his movement and eventually relocating him by the respondents from Kano to Abuja, and subsequent confinement in Awe, Nasarawa State, or such other place in Nasarawa State, or elsewhere in Nigeria, contrary to his will and without any court order, is unlawful, and unconstitutional.
“A DECLARATION that the respondents’ act of banishing the applicant to Nasarawa State and detaining him thereat without his consent and in the absence of any valid court order, constitutes a gross infringement/violation of his fundamental right to freedom of movement and personal liberty.
He urged the court to make an order directing the respondents to tender an unreserved and a written public apology in at least three national dailies for breaching his fundamental rights.
The ex-emir also prayed the court to make an order directing the respondents to jointly and severally pay him the sum of N50 million as damages for his unlawful arrest and detention, among others.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Chikere, who first addressed the arguments by the respondents, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter, held that the court, as presently constituted, had the power to hear the suit.
“I will first rule on jurisdiction because it is the power of the court to preside on any matter,” she said.
Chikere described jurisdiction as the life blood of any matter.
She said without jurisdiction, the whole trial would be in nullity no matter how well it was conducted.
She noted that though Section 46 of the 1999 Constitution provides that any one whose right has been trampled upon could approach a high court in a state where the offence had been committed, Chikere noted that the cause of action as presented by Sanusi did not only took place in Kano State but also in Abuja and Nasarawa State.
“Looking at the cause of action, it is the fact which gives rise to the action,” she said.
On arguments that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit because the action arose from chieftaincy matter, the court said since the applicant is not challenging his deposition but the breach of his fundamental rights, it was the duty of the court to protect such rights.
She, therefore, held that any of the states, including her court, could entertain the matter since Sanusi’s right was also violated within these areas.
The judge, who struck out the name of the AGF from the suit on the grounds that the applicant failed to establish his case against the 4th respondent, restrained the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents from further harassing Sanusi or infringing on his rights.
The court noted that as averred by Sanusi in his affidavit that on March 9, 2020, before he was handed the deposition letter, there were unusual presence of officers of the police and DSS around the palace.
The court further held that the former emir was not allowed access to his personal belongings and effects before he was forcefully moved to Abuja, and subsequently to Awe against his wish.
The court also held that the claim by the state government that his relocation to Awe was for his personal protection and that his stay in Kano would put him on serious risk were untenable.
The judge held that his relocation to Awe without a valid court order was unlawful and unconstitutional.
She added that his harassment and degrading treatment was ultravires.
Chikere, therefore, ordered the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents to remove all curtailments against Sanusi.
She said the order of the 3rd respondent, acting on the order of the state governor, was unlawful.
She held that any act of banishment is unlawful, except the applicant had committed an offence.
She added that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents had no power to place the dethroned emir under house arrest and restrict his movement without valid court order.
She described the mental torture and harassment suffered by the applicant as ultravire and illegal.
The judge then made an order, restraining the the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents from act of banishing Sanusi from City of Kano or anywhere or continuing to violate his rights in any part of Nigeria.
The court, who awarded a N10 million fine against the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents, also ordered them to tender a public apology in two national dailies.