A 35-year-old deportee from the United States of America, David Copperfield, has approached a Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking a declaration that he is not a Nigerian. Copperfield who claimed to have no Nigerian affiliation whatsoever said he was wrongly deported to Nigeria after being charged for burglary in America.
He had approached the court seeking a declaration that the Nigerian Immigration Service erred when it received him into the country as a repatriated citizen on September 18, 2013. Copperfield said he had been living like a destitute around the Ikeja area of Lagos and depending on charity from good Nigerians since his arrival in the country, as he had no relations in the country.
He is therefore was asking the court to order his immediate return to the US or UK by the NIS. In a 21-paragragh statement of claims deposed to by his lawyer, Mr. Ezebube Chinwike, Copperfield claimed to have been born on November 25, 1979 at Mill Road Maternity Hospital in Liverpool, England to a British-American father and a British Mother. He gave his parents’ names as Hagit Goddard Copperfield (now deceased) and Shlomo Baruch Praise. He said he lived at 9301 Annapolis Road, Lanham, MD 20706 in the United States of America before his detention in America and subsequent deportation to Nigeria. According to his court papers, Copperfield alleged that he was deported to Nigeria with fake documents issued by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC to the effect that he was a Nigerian when he indeed was not.
He claimed that upon arrival at the Murtala International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos he had informed the officials of NIS that he was neither a Nigerian nor had any Nigerian relative but yet he was received into the country. He said that based on his complaints on arriving the country, the NIS handed him over to the Nigerian Police Force, Airport Command, Ikeja for investigations and verification of his claims. According to him, the police, after conducting the investigations, confirmed that he had dual citizenship (American and British) but not a Nigerian. Copperfield alleged that after the police had concluded its investigations, he was taken back to the NIS for the necessary administrative procedure to take him back to the US, but he was rejected with no official reasons.
He alleged that since the NIS had abandoned him and refused to take him back to the US, which he claim to be his country, he had been living like a destitute around the Ikeja area of Lagos State and living on charity from good Nigerians. According to him he is currently living with some acute and severe health challenges named as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. Copperfield who alleged that when he visited the NIS office at the Murtala Internation Airport, Lagos, he was chased away and sternly warned never to return, said he could no longer access his daily medications which his hospital in the US had never failed to supply him with.
A medical report claimed to have been issued by the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital on March 6, 2014 by one Dr. A.O. Olatunbosun, a consultant, was attached to Copperfield’s statement of claims.
According to Olatunbosun, in the medical report tagged SUB/LASUTH/302, addressed to whom it may concern, Copperfield needed a daily dose of 300mg of Serequel (to be taken at night) and 300mg of Abilify (to be taken in the morning). The consultant who wrote that the drugs were not available in Nigeria had advised that it would be better for Copperfield to travel abroad to ‘benefit maximally from the prescribed drugs’. Copperfield in his suit against the NIS and its officials marked FHC/L/362/2014 was, besides asking the court to order his immediate return to the US, also demanding a sum of N10m as special and general damages against the defendants in his suit. He also wanted the court to put the cost of filing the suit on the defendants. The three defendants named were the Director of the NIS, the Comptroller General of the NIS and the NIS.
Meanwhile the defendants have maintained that Copperfield’s claims remained to be proven. In the statement of defence, deposed to by their lawyer, Mr. S.S. Liman, they said that they were vehemently opposed to Copperfield’s claims that he was received in error. The defendants said they could not be held responsible for Copperfield’s wrongful deportation to Nigeria since he was received based on the Emergency Travel Certificate issued by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC which indicated that he is a Nigerian. They argued that they had no reason to have rejected him since the ETC that accompanied him was issued by the Nigerian Embassy at Washington DC and it indicated that he is a Nigerian. The defence also averred that the ETC was not fake as it was issued by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC based on official request by the USA Immigration. They further argued that the fact that Copperfied was handed over to the Nigerian Embassy in the US for repatriation was a testimony that he was not an American citizen as he claimed to be.
The defendants denied ever handling Copperfield over to the Nigeria Police, saying the Nigerian Police was not in a position to confirm that he is an American or Briton. The defendant also refuted the claim by Copperfieds that it is their statutory duty to return him to America as enshrined in the Immigration Act Cap 11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. They said it was indeed not within their capacity to take Copperfield back to America. According to them, the power to deport a person out of Nigeria was vested only in the Minister of Interior. The defendants advised Copperfields to direct his allegations to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wondering why Copperfield had not joined the agencies as parties in his suit.
The defendants concluded by arguing that the suit was premature, incompetent and one for which the court ought to award costs against the plaintiff. At the last hearing on Monday last week, the plaintiff opened its arguments with Copperfields in the dock being led in evidence by his lawyer, Chinwike. The court admitted as exhibits several documents that Copperfield tendered as evidence. The trial was however truncated as the court advised Copperfield’s lawyer to go and perfect his processes by filing a written address to the defendants’ statement of defence. Justice Okon Abang, at the instance of Chinwike, adjourned till October 8, 2014 for further hearing.