By Abdulwahab Abdulah
One of the challenges facing smooth and speedy administration of justice in Nigeria is filing of diverse applications and duplication of same processes before the court of concurrent jurisdiction which often is deemed frivolous and a waste of court’s time. Many cases had faced this difficulty and had suffered unnecessary delay as a result of perceived abuse of legal process. One of such is the extradition application against Senator Buruji Kashamu, a senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District of Ogun State, which has been argued before different judges for years.
The case which commenced on May 27, 2015 when the ex-Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, applied to a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja asking for the extradition of Senator Kashamu on allegations of certain indictments of a criminal act he allegedly perpetrated in violation of the United States Drugs Law. The suit delineated FHC/ABJ/CS/479/2015 was filed on the eve of Adoke’s departure from office as the AGF while a similar case was already before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
Ruling on the case, Justice G. O. Kolawole on July 1, 2015 dismissed the suit on the ground that the AGF’s office being an office created by the constitution, has a greater obligation to respect every judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction regardless of its opinion as to whether it was right or wrong until such decisions are set aside by the appellate court.
The court further held that the AGF was aware that certain proceedings were already on in the Lagos division of the Federal High Court on the same matter, adding that he had exercised restraint based on the injunction of the Supreme Court that where a court is clearly aware that another court of coordinate jurisdiction is seized of a case with the same parties and subject matter before it, it is an abuse of process for that court to continue with the hearing of the case.
This, however, did not put the matter to rest as the issue continues to rear its head, which made the senator, through his lawyer, to express his dissatisfaction. Kashamu in his letter asked whether the AGF’s Office is aware of the two British judgments in his favour which was proved by the British High Commission in a letter dated April 27, 2015 indicating that he was free from extradition proceedings in their country between 1998 and 2003 because the Magistrate was not satisfied that he had a case to answer. He also asked “whether the AGF is aware that the purported extradition suit that was instituted against him after the 2015 abduction plot orchestrated by the immediate past administration failed, was dismissed by Justice Kolawole who described the action of the NDLEA as “a show of shame.
“With all these facts of my exoneration by two British courts in a case instituted by the American Government, the facts of which are available to the Honourable Minister of Justice, how can anyone rightly seek to subject me to another round of extradition proceedings when we had joined issues in a foreign land (the United Kingdom) – which is better known as US’ closest ally – and the courts found that I am not the person being sought for the drug crime? What is more, the two British court judgments in my favour were not and have not been appealed till date.
“Now, if as stated in your 14th July, 2016 letter that no further steps could be taken until the appeals are determined one way or the other, can any steps be truly and validly taken in view of the subsistence of the two final judgments of the British courts which are yet to be appealed till date? This is in addition to the subsisting orders and judgments in FHC/L/CS/49/2010 and FHC/ABJ/CS/479/2015,” he stated.
Kashamu also added: “The Extradition Act LN 33 1967 between Nigeria and USA recognised the Extradition Treaty between USA and Great Britain. Signed in London on 22nd December, 1931, the treaty reads in part, ‘Whereas the extradition Treaty concluded between the United States of America and Great Britain and signed at London, on 22nd December 1931 for the surrender of fugitive offenders, has been recognised as binding on Nigeria subject to the modification specified in Schedule 1 hereto.’
Bringing the matter to the fore, was the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos which set aside the judgement of the High Court, which freed him of the extradition procedure in respect of a fundamental human rights case on the basis of being speculative should be tested at the Supreme Court since the 1999 Constitution provides for the institution of a case once a citizen has reasons to suspect that his fundamental human rights “has been, is being or is likely to be contravened” as expressly captured in Chapter IV, Section 46 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. They contended further that the law should be applied dispassionately to all and sundry, based on jurisprudence and precedents, and not based on personalities or other extraneous considerations.
Indeed, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, was succinct in his opinion that there is no justification in pushing for extradition of Senator Kashamu by the Federal Government as there is nothing in any of the two judgments of the Court of appeal calling for his extradition from within or without Nigeria as the appellate court did not dismiss any challenge by the senator to his extradition process.
According to Olanipekun, the judgments of the two British courts are judgments that are binding on all persons and parties to the proceedings, including but not limited to the Nigerian government. As the parties await the outcome of the apex court, the case at hand will determine how firm our courts are in dispensation of justice.