By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, handed-off the extradition case against the former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Security, Minting and Printing Company, NSMPC, Mr. Ehidiamhen Okoyomon.
The trial Judge, who earlier ordered the federal government to within 30 days, extradite Okoyomon to the United Kingdom to face corruption charges pending against him there, said yesterday that he was constrained to hands-off the matter since a higher court is now seized of the facts.
Consequently, he yesterday adjourned further hearing on the matter sine-die (indefinitely).
The ruling of the court followed an application for stay of execution, which Okoyomon filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
Okoyomon had gone before the appellate court to challenge his planned extradition to the UK, saying he should be allowed to stand trial in Nigeria.
A District Court in the UK had issued a warrant of arrest against Okoyomon who was declared wanted over his alleged complicity in a bribery scam that involved officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the NSMPC and Securency International Pty of Australia.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in Nigeria, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, told the Federal High Court that the said crime was allegedly committed between 2006 and 2008.
Meantime, on the strength of the extradition application and the accompanying proof-of-evidence that was adduced before the court by the AGF, Justice Chukwu ordered that he should be repatriated to the UK.
The plea of the ex-Mint boss to be allowed to face his trial in Nigeria was refused by the court which observed that he is equally a British citizen.
Justice Chukwu further noted that the accused person, all through his submissions, made no attempt to refute the corruption charge that is pending against him in the UK, even as the court ordered that he should remain in prison custody until the extradition process is perfected.
Specifically, the court held that the 1931 Extradition Treaty between United Kingdom and America became applicable to Nigeria in 1935, hence “it is an existing law based on the meaning of Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution”.
The judge maintained that the London Scheme on Extradition was duly domesticated in the country by virtue of Section 12 of the Constitution.
Among exhibits the court admitted into evidence against Okoyomon included an affidavit that was deposed to by one Tapan Debnah, a solicitor with the Serious Fraud Office, SFO, of England, which was sworn before a Westminster Magistrate Court.
The affidavit gave a summary of the allegations against the accused, the punishment prescribed for the offences and the jurisdiction of the court to try the matter.
The AGF, through his lawyer, Mr. M.S Hassan, equally tendered the Certified True Copy of the charge against the former MINT boss, the warrant of arrest issued by a District Judge in the UK, an investigative report on oath deposed to by one Brenda Smith White before the Westminster Magistrate Court, a photograph of the accused person for easy identification, as well as a letter notifying the accused of his success in his application for British citizenship.
Hassan told the court that the UK government earlier notified the accused in advance of all the documents that will be used in his prosecution, stressing that Okoyomon would be given fair trial considering that he is also a British citizen.
Nevertheless, Okoyomon has asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the order for his extradition to the UK for trial.
In a Notice of Appeal he filed through his lawyer Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), Okoyomon insisted that Justice Chukwu erred in law when he ordered his extradition to the UK despite the absence of a treaty between Nigeria and UK government.
Among four issues he formulated before the appellate court, the accused person contended that; “There is no subsisting Act of the National Assembly or treaty between Nigeria and Great Britain upon which the decision of the court was premised.
“There was also no Order made by the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria applying the provisions of the Extradition Act. Cap E25, LFN 2004 to Great Britain as envisaged by Section 1(6) of the Extradition Act, Cap E25, LFN 2004”.
He argued that the extradition order that was issued against him by the high court was not supported by any legislation in Nigeria.
He therefore begged the appellate court to restrain the federal government from extraditing him to the UK, pending the determination of his appeal.