A Federal High Court, Abuja, will on May 9 deliver a judgment in the suit filed by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, against the Inspector General of Police and two others.
The Governor has asked the court to prevent the police, Department of State Security and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from searching any of his houses in Nigeria.
Wike, had on June 5, 2017, approached the court in the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/383, 2017, raised three questions for the determination of the court.
Wike wants the court to determine: “Whether section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) precludes the defendants from applying for and or obtaining any process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of the plaintiff, who is the current governor of Rivers State.
“Whether the defendants can, by combine effect or 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 (ACJA) 2015 apply for, obtain, issue or in any manner or form effectively execute a search warrant at the residence of the plaintiff in Abuja or in any of the plaintiff’s residence in other locations in Nigeria without the physical presence of plaintiff or his privy in the course of the execution of such search warrant.
“If the answer to question 2 above is in the negative, will the issuing, obtaining and executing of search warrant at the residence of the plaintiff in Abuja or in any of the plaintiff’s residence in any other location in Nigeria, not amount to a violation of section 308 of the Constitution where the issue and or execution of such search warrant would compel and or require the presence of the Plaintiff”.
When the case came up Thursday, Sylva Ogwemoh, (SAN), counsel to Wike told the court that what the suit sought was the interpretation of a section of the constitution.
“The focal point of our summons is the interpretation of Section 308 of the Constitution as it relates to search warrant.
“A search warrant is undoubtedly a process of court and if that is the case, there is a breach of the absolute immunity that Section 308 confers on the plaintiff (Wike).”
Ogwemoh argued that the section provided that a search warrant required the appearance of the plaintiff who had immunity at the property to be searched.
He said that the submission by the counsel to the Police that it had the discretion to search his house in his absence was against the law.
The senior lawyer added that since they were only seeking an interpretation to the law, there was no need to attach a warrant to the application.
David Igbodo, counsel to the IGP, in opposing the application, prayed the court to dismiss it on the grounds that it was mere speculations.
“The application is speculative because in the first instance, there is no search warrant attached to it.
“The only exhibit attached is the interview granted by Wike himself in which he made allegations that the police wants to search his house in Abuja.
“He made the allegation but he did not attach the search warrant to prove it.
“Assuming without conceding that the police obtained a search warrant to search the Rivers governors house in Abuja, the question is can the police execute the search warrant without requiring his presence?
“The question has been answered by the Supreme Court and the answer is yes, the police can effectively do that without requiring his presence.
“So the government house of Rivers in Abuja can be searched without the governor’s presence as there are security men there that can witness the search.”
Igbodo further submitted that the law allowed the police to gather evidence and investigate officials who had immunity adding that a search warrant was a process of obtaining evidence during investigation.
According to him, the Governor enjoys immunity which is not in dispute but while he enjoys immunity, he can be investigated and during the process of investigation, evidence can be gathered against him.
Counsel to the DSS, O. Atoyebi also urged the court to dismiss the application on the grounds that it was an attempt by the governor to prevent the service from performing its statutory functions.
Mrs Elizabeth Alabi, counsel to the EFCC also opposed the application and prayed the court to dismiss it saying that the commission had no business in the suit and was wrongfully joined.
She also asked the court to award N100,000 cost against the governor.
After listening to the submissions of the counsel, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, the trial Judge, reserved judgment in the matter to May 9.