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A High Court judge has ordered the release of a Nigerian man, who was scheduled for deportation whilst having cases pending for drug trafficking.
Delivering an oral judgement in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday morning, Justice Joan Charles ruled that the Immigration Division acted illegally in February, when it sought to deport Christopher Odikagbue for entering the country illegally almost a decade ago.
Charles ruled that the division should have waited for his appeal and pending trial for two charges of cocaine trafficking before it had taken the steps to deport him.
“A dangerous precedent would be set which would undermine the rule of law and the administration of justice. He is entitled to challenge his conviction and for his trial to be heard,” Charles ruled.
As part of her judgement, Charles said Odikagbue can be released after he pays a $50,000 security bond and purchases a return ticket to Nigeria. She also ordered the division to place him under a supervision order pending the determination of his cases.
Charles said that if Odikagbue was deported without the cases being determined, it would be almost impossible for him to apply to return to this country to be with his Trinidadian wife and two children in the future.
In deciding on the case, Charles agreed with his attorneys that he would not be a flight risk if allowed to stay in T&T.
“He has been attending his matters. It is in his best interest to exhaust his legal options and his chance of absconding is relatively low,” Charles said.
She had also ruled that the division had failed to adduce evidence over which she could concluded that Odikagbue had high likelihood of re-offending if he was left in T&T.
According to the evidence in the case, Odikagbue entered T&T through an unknown port of entry in October 2007. He was arrested and charged with the offences while going through the process of obtaining residency through his wife and children.
He was detained by Immigration officials in February over his illegal entry and his criminal charges and was placed before a Special Immigration Tribunal, which ordered his deportation.
Odikagbue, who has been detained at the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo since his arrest, was not brought to court for the hearing.
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