Lagos - A Nigerian court ordered the State Security Service (SSS) on Thursday to give suspended Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi his passport back and pay him 50 million naira ($300 000) in damages for detaining him at Lagos airport, his lawyer said.
President Goodluck Jonathan suspended Sanusi on February 21, removing an increasingly harsh critic of the government's record on tackling corruption in Africa's leading oil producer.
Sanusi was in neighbouring Niger giving a talk at the time. The presidency alleged financial malpractice at the bank. Upon his return on the same day, the SSS detained him at the airport for a few hours and confiscated his passport.
“The court found that the government harassed and intimidated him, and violated his fundamental human right to liberty and freedom of movement,” his lawyer Babatunde Irukera told Reuters in an email.
Presidency and security officials were not immediately available for comment.
“The court declared that his arrest was illegal and that his passport should be forthwith returned to him, further that the federal government should pay him 50 million naira in punitive damages,” he added.
Sanusi, who was due to end his term in June, had been presenting evidence to parliament that he said showed the state oil company Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to remit $20-billion that it owed to federal government coffers. The NNPC has repeatedly denied Sanusi's allegations.
The governor's record on cleaning up the banking sector, squeezing inflation into single digits and stabilising the naira currency had won him much respect among portfolio investors.
His suspension damaged market confidence in Nigeria, although a monetary tightening at the last central bank meeting helped restore some confidence in what is still seen as one of Africa's brightest investment prospects.
Deputy governor Sarah Alade has taken over the bank in the interim, with Zenith Bank managing director Godwin Emefiele named to take over in June.
Sanusi is also in court to challenge his suspension, though he says he does not want the job back, just to question the legality of Jonathan's removal of him. - Reuters