•Alleges trumped up charges, extortion
•As UK court throws out police request for extradition
By Evelyn Usman
For some years now, a United Kingdom based Nigerian entrepreneur, Mr Bankole Ogunowo, has had his dreams of visiting home to see his aged mother and relatives shattered, owing to allegations of trafficking in persons levelled against him by his estranged wife, Eillen, here in Nigeria.
Consequently, the INTERPOL section of the Nigeria Police wrote the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom, to extradite Ogunowo, in order to be investigated on alleged trumped up charges of impersonation, false documentation, among others.
Before the INTERPOL’s move, policemen at the Force Criminal Investigations Department, FCID Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos State, where the complaint by Ogunnowo’s ex-wife was lodged, had been investigating the matter.
During the process, Ogunowo alleged that the detectives extorted over N1 million from him, claiming they intended to use it to withdraw the court case against him.
In a petition to the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, Ogunowo traced the beginning of his ordeal to February 2012, when he got married to Eileen, at the Ikeja Marriage registry.
Being a British citizen of Nigeria extraction, Eileen, as gathered, facilitated her husband’s relocation to the United Kingdom.
With time, things fell apart for the couple. Recalling the situation, Ogunowo said : “Since then, my estranged wife and her mother vowed to get me deported to Nigeria and send me to prison. They levelled malicious allegations of crimes against me in the UK.
But during investigation by the UK Police and family court, I was exonerated from all allegations.
“Thereafter, they went to Nigeria with the same allegations that had been investigated in the UK. When all attempts at the FCID, Alagbon and Ondo State Police Command failed, they wrote a letter to Interpol Unit, Abuja for my extradition.
“Without any attempt to extend the investigation to me or contact me in spite of the fact that I am not a fugitive criminal in the UK, the Police in Lagos, acting with their co-conspirators and collaborators in Abuja, concluded a purported investigation and filed a trumped up charge against me at the Federal High Court, Abuja with charge no FHC/ABJ/CR/71/18, which I only got to know about when the extradition papers were sent to the UK.
“Again, it is worthy of note that the Police Interim Investigation report dated May 8, 2017, addressed to the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), FCID, from the Office of the Commissioner of Police (Interpol) and the subsequent approval to commence the extradition process carried the offences of Criminal Conspiracy, Cheating and Obtaining under False Pretense.
“The warrant of arrest, dated November 20, 2017, from the Magistrate Court, Wuse, Abuja, which was obtained by the Police as part of the extradition requirement, listed the offences as threat to life, falsification of documents and impersonation.”
“Upon receipt of the letter of extradition, I contacted the Office of the Interpol, Abuja and attached it with a letter furnishing the Unit with facts. The officers who assisted my ex-wife to facilitate the charges had since been extorting me. I have paid over N1million which the policemen claimed they needed to facilitate withdrawal of the malicious charges against me. In spite of the payment, the so-called charges are still pending against me.
“My entry into the United Kingdom was legal, my continuous stay till date in the UK is also legal as my immigration documents can show.
“I’m not an illegal immigrant. The alleged offences for which my extradition is being sought are not extraditable offences as stated in the general rule that extricable offences must be those commonly recognised.
“I most humbly urge you sir, to order a comprehensive investigation into this case, bring to book, all the policemen who are found wanting in compromising their position and office with a view to bringing the name and image of the Nigeria Police to ridicule and disrepute.
“There should also be an order to withdraw the frivolous charges against me at the Federal High Court”, Ogunowo stated in the petition to the IGP.
Meanwhile, a West Minister Magistrate Court on the ruling regarding the request of Ogunowo’s extradition, last September, described the request as a risk.
The District Judge, Michael Fanning, in his ruling on the matter requested that before Ogunowo’s extradition would be granted, the Nigerian government should provide information concerning the conditions of detention while facing trial in Nigeria.
The Court, therefore, requested for information bordering on where Ogunowo would be kept if he was returned to Nigeria, before and after trial; if he would be given three square meals per day, if he would be accommodated in a cell which would provide him with at least three square metres of personal space (excluding any in-cell sanitary facilities); if he would have access to medical care, including access to medication for the prevention of malaria and tuberculosis, as well as the provision of treatment for depression and the length of time he would be held in detention before trial.
The Nigeria Police response was expected to reach the UK court by October 14, 2019 before further hearing to determine how to proceed on October 21, 2019, but the UK court, as reliably gathered, did not receive any response to its demands, from the Nigeria Police.
Consequently, on October 21, 2019, the UK court delivered its judgment in favour of Ogunowo
UK court’s judgement
The judge, in a copy of the judgment made available to Crime Guard, said he was compelled to discharge Ogunowo under section 84(5) of the existing constitution on extradition .
He said: “The London treaty is overarching Treaty governing this extradition request. This request appears to be only the second such request made of the UK by Nigeria.
“As already noted, ‘a prison assurance’ was sought in that case too but none was proffered. That is the case with this request. There is, therefore, no record of Nigeria abiding by similar assurances. There are no established bilateral relations between Nigeria and the UK in respect of extradition”.
Continuing, he said: “I discharge the RP ( Requested Person) under s.78(3)EA 2003 in respect of counts 1,5 and 7 on the grounds of inadequate particularisation as required by s, 78(2)(c) EA 2003; I discharge RP under s.78(6) in respect of counts 1 and 2 on the grounds that neither is an extradition offence as required by s.78(4)(b) EA 2003 and as defined in s.137(3) EA 2003”.
The Judge further discharged Ogunowo on all count charges, stating that “ I do not find that there is a prima facie case against him. I find that RP’s Article 3’s right will not be protected if extradited, by reason of which the prevailing prison conditions in Nigeria has been asked for, but has not provided any assurance that could assuage my concerns.
RP’s Article 8 rights to a family life and those of his children and partner would be impermissibly interfered with, were his extradition ordered. I discharge RP under s.87(2)”, said Judge Michael Fanning.
Meanwhile, the Convener of #End SARs, Segun Awosanya, has called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, to make public, findings on the alleged extortion of Ogunowo by policemen whose names were disclosed in the complainant’s petition to him (IGP).
This followed what was described as silence on the part of the Police High Command on the findings of the report of a panel set up to investigate the alleged extortion, since last year.
Though some senior police officers at the Police High command confirmed that the IGP set up a panel to probe Ogunowo’s allegation, but none revealed its outcome.
Awosanyan had tweeted; “the UK authorities believe that our fellow citizen, Mr Bankole is not safe to even visit his own country based on the level of conspiracy weaponized against him by the Police even after discharging him abroad.
“We need disclosure having found that this is another case of impunity. There is no way a crime of this magnitude should be swept under any proverbial carpet.
“We need the report as soon as possible in the public domain and police authorities urgently must bring to book all those involved. The IG of @PoliceNG should prioritize this. #EndImpunity.”