Godwin Tsa, Abuja
An Abuja-based businessman has slammed a N150 million law suit against the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) over the loss of his international passport.
In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1111/2018, the plaintiff, Mr. Emeka Ohams, is urging the court to declare that the Nigerian Immigration Service negligently lost his passport bearing two years United States of America Visa running from July 2017 to July 2019 and Venezuelan resident permit.
It is the case of the plaintiff that sometime around February/March 2018, he submitted his international passport with number AO4950981 at the passport office of the defendant (NIS), for renewal as it was about to expire on August 2018.
In his statement of claim dated October 10, 2018, and filed by his counsel, Nkechi Udoh, Ohams informed the court that after six weeks period, he was told by the officer of the defendant that there was a shortage of booklet and the renewal was not possible immediately.
The plaintiff, also a student of the National Open University (NOUN), said he was further informed by another officer of the defendant, Mrs. Elizabeth, that his file and international passport were with her and that he should come for it.
It was also the case of the plaintiff that after four months delay, he was given a new passport with number AO9480003 without the old passport containing two years valid USA Visa in it and Venezuela resident permit, which he submitted to the defendant.
He averred that although he was asked to come back and pick the old passport, it had not been given to him after several visits to the defendant’s office.
According to the statement of claim, “upon one of the plaintiff’s visit to the defendant’s office, he was told to calm down as an officer in uniform would accompany him to the US embassy to have his Visa replaced if the old one could not be found,” but the defendant had failed to do so.
Rather, the plaintiff told the court that he was issued with two letters by the defendant accompanied by a court affidavit and police extract deposed to by one Innocent Eze, a staff of the defendant to the effect that his old passport has been misplaced.
He told the court that when the letters were handed over to him, the officer advised that he should wait awhile before proceeding to the US Embassy, as the old passport could still be found.
“Nobody called me that they have seen the passport and around July 11-13, 2018, I went to the US embassy in Abuja and on getting there, the security men laughed at me and told me that both the directives given to me by the defendant and the letters had no bearing as there was no reissuance of any Visa in the case of a lost passport and that I should re-apply for a fresh one.
He said the development had put him into severe hardship and psychological trauma as he could not travel to attend to some pressing family demands and other business engagements.
According to him, “part of my plans for the trip was a very important business trip from the US to Mexico for a two-week workshop on ‘the setting of pilot scheme on ‘Greenhouse Farm,’ where I planned to present proposals to foreign farmers to partner me to develop my 60 hectares farm in Asaba, Delta State.
The plaintiff said he was shocked to hear from an officer of the defendant that “any passport with valid Visa to great countries like the USA and UK hardly comes out if submitted to the immigration office as they usually steal it and fraudulently sell it to other people in need of it.”
He said the loss of his passport had deprived him of prospective business opportunities and further, put him under big stress of replacing his Venezuela resident permit.
Accordingly, he is urging the court to make an order directing the defendant to pay him the sum of N100m as general damages for the emotional shock, hardship and obstructing his plans.
In addition, he also asked for an order of court compelling the defendant to pay him the sum of N50 m as punitive and exemplary damages to him and to deter the defendant from further acts of negligence.