The Nigeria Immigration Service has explained why its officials questioned AIT’s Raymond Dokpesi recently.
Raymond Dokpesi, a Nigerian media executive and politician, was quizzed by immigration officials for two fundamental reasons bordering on alleged violation of the Nigerian immigration laws, Comptroller-General Mohammed Babandede, exclusively told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday.
Mr Dokpesi, the founder of AIT and a senior member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, was questioned on Wednesday at the Immigration Headquarters in Abuja.
The media executive was invited for questioning shortly after officials learnt he travelled and returned to the country in manners that are unclear.
Mr Dokpesi spoke with journalists shortly after he was grilled Wednesday, confirming his visit had to do with his latest trip overseas.
Mr Dokpesi said he was asked to submit his passport, but that he could not because he had returned it to the court which approved its release to enable him to travel for a medical procedure abroad.
The politician’s passport has been in the custody of the Federal High Court since he was arraigned for allegedly receiving up to N2.1 billion from former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
But Mr Babandede’s explanation of what transpired contradicted what Mr Dokpesi told reporters Wednesday.
The politician did not say he was asked about how he left the country without his passport being stamped.
Extant Nigerian immigration regulations require that a person going out or coming into the country must be cleared to do so by authorities.
Mr Dokpesi’s passport was not signed by immigration officials before he left the country, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
“We do not know how he left the country — whether through the land, air or sea,” Mr Babandede said.
Mr Dokpesi said he received clearance from the court to allow him travel out, but Mr Babandede told PREMIUM TIMES the Immigration does not have any information from the court in that respect.
“Usually, court officials would notify us whenever someone’s passport is released to travel after a previous confiscation by the court, but we have no records showing that Mr Dokpesi was cleared to travel by the court,” the Immigration chief added.
He also told PREMIUM TIMES an ongoing investigation would reveal more details.
“Nigerians will know more of what happened when we conclude our investigation,” the immigration chief said.
Mr Babandede also added, “He (Mr Dokpesi) was only invited for questioning in respect of crossing borders based on the powers given to us by the Immigration Act 2015. He was never detained.
Also, this has nothing to do with the federal government of Nigeria. It has to do with the Nigerian Immigration Service under my leadership.”
Mr Dokpesi’s headache
Mr Dokpesi did not immediately return requests for comments Thursday morning.
In his interaction with reporters in Abuja Wednesday, he acknowledged that the Nigerian government has the powers to retrieve his passport from him, but said the government itself has to be subservient to judicial pronouncement on the matter.
Mr Dokpesi said he voluntarily returned his passport to the Federal High Court shortly after he returned to the country, and he could be trusted to always do so as his medical treatment demanded.
Mr Dokpesi was arraigned in late 2015 for alleged violation of procurement law and benefitting up to N2.1 billion in shady media contracts for his associated outlets.
He strongly denied the allegations in court, saying the contracts were legitimate and that he had no way of knowing whether or not the payment was corruptly sourced by Mr Dasuki.