By Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Ojelu
Top lawyers including Mr Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, insisted that Yoruba freedom fighter, Chief Sunday Adeyemo fondly called Sunday Igboho cannot be extradited to Nigeria without due process.
In a statement, Falana said: “Sometime in 2003, a detachment of the Nigeria Police Force invaded Benin Republic and forcefully arrested Hammoni Tidjani, who was alleged to be behind the several cases of trans border crimes including armed robbery, car snatching and money laundering. He was brought to Nigeria and charged before the Ogun and Lagos States High Court. He was standing trial in the Lagos High Court when he was reported to have died of stroke in a crowded cell at the Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre. The brutal treatment meted out to him and the breach of the sovereignty of Benin Republic attracted the condemnation of the human rights community.
“In January 2019, 53 refugees and asylum seekers from Cameroon were arrested and detained at the request of President Paul Biya. In spite of the intervention of the United Nations Office of Refugees the Federal Government deported them to Cameroon in utter breach of the law. On the instructions of the refugees and asylum seekers we approached the federal high court for legal redress. As the Federal Government could not justify the brazen violations of the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs the court declared their deportation illegal and ordered the Federal Government to bring them back to Nigeria. Dissatisfied with the decision the Federal Government has rushed to the Court of Appeal.
“A few weeks ago, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu was allegedly abducted in Nairobi, Kenya and forcefully brought to Nigeria by security forces. Even though Kanu was liable to be arrested and brought back to Nigeria to face trial having jumped bail the refusal of the Federal Government to follow due process in the case has exposed Nigeria to international opprobrium. However, unlike Kenya, the Republic of Benin has rejected the demand to deport Chief Adeyemo (a.k.a. Sunday Igboho) outside the ambit of the law. Hence, the Federal Government has submitted a request for the extradition of Igboho in accordance with the provisions of the Ecowas Convention on Extradition and the Extradition Law of Benin Republic.
“On July 1, 2021, the residence of Chief Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a Igboho) at Ibadan, Oyo State was raided by armed operatives of the State Security Service (SSS). “Even though Igboho escaped arrest two of his guards were killed while 13 other people were forcefully arrested in the compound and taken to Abuja where they have since been held incommunicado. Thereafter, Igboho was declared wanted and put on International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) watch-list by the State Security Service (SSS). We have however confirmed that Igboho and his wife were arrested by Interpol in Cotonou, Benin Republic on Monday, July 19, 2021 on their way to Germany.
“According to media reports, Igboho and his wife are currently being detained by the police authorities in a criminal police station in Cotonou. If they are indicted for breaching the criminal code of Benin Republic, they are liable to be arraigned before a criminal court in Cotonou. Contrary to speculations in the media, it is submitted that Igboho cannot be expelled from Benin and deported to Nigeria on the basis of his arrest by Interpol without due process as prescribed by Article 12(4) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which provides that “A non-national legally admitted in a territory of a State Party to the present Charter, may only be expelled from it by virtue of a decision taken in accordance with the law.”
“Thus, the Federal Government cannot bring back Igboho to the country without first making a request for his extradition and prosecution in Nigeria pursuant to the provisions of the ECOWAS Convention A/P.1/8/94 on Extradition, which is applicable in the 15 member states of the ECOWAS. It is pertinent to note that the 1994 ECOWAS Convention has superseded the 1984 Extradition Treaty between Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana pursuant to Article 32 of the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition.
“Accordingly, upon the receipt of a request for the extradition of Igboho, the Government of Benin Republic will be under a legal obligation to commence extradition proceedings in one of its domestic courts. It is pertinent to point out that by virtue of Article 28 (2) of the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition, the procedure with regard to extradition and provisional arrest are governed solely by the law of the requested State, i.e. Benin Republic.
“Apart from providing for a speedy extradition procedure, the government of Benin Republic shall ensure that Igboho, whose extradition is requested, has the right to be heard by a judicial authority and to be assisted by the lawyer of his own choice. Nigeria is specifically requested by Article 4 of the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition to convince the Court in Cotonou that the offence in respect of which Igboho is wanted is not political or for the purpose of prosecuting him on account of his ethnic group or political opinion. Various provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is also a party, apply as well. As noted, if the person is lawfully within the territory of the rendering State, extradition requires due process.”
Refusal to extradite Igboho may trigger diplomatic row—Prof Erugo
On his part, Professor Sam Erugo, SAN said: “The reported legal process initiated by the FG to extradite Sunday Igboho from Benin Republic to face investigation or trial in Nigeria will be interesting to follow, considering the setting. The dust is yet to settle on the unconventional process that brought Nnamdi Kanu back. Both men are agitators for self-determination with large number of agitated followers ‘fighting’ in vain on social media. So many legal and political factors will come into play.
“From a legal perspective, extradition is the proper legal process in the circumstances to accord Sunday Igboho opportunity to contest the process, and as well provide prospect for a court, supposedly independent one, to interrogate, albeit summarily, the criminal allegations that form the basis of the extradition. In other words, Igboho’s extradition cannot be expected to come as a matter of right. It could be refused, and there could be element of transparency as the international legal community has shown interest. While extradition is usually regulated by cooperation agreement or treaties, it is also reasonably dependent on certain laws and practice in operation within the requested state. There is no argument that there are some extradition treaty and cooperation agreements binding both nations. The ECOWAS Convention on Extradition of 1994 is germane, and the ECOWAS Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1992, and the Protocol of 2005 may also be helpful.
“However, it is important to note that countries are free to determine the conditions or terms under which to entertain, grant or deny requests for extradition. A major reason to deny request for extradition is failure to satisfy the dual criminality standard. At this point one can only guess what crime(s) the FG will cite as basis for extradition to compare with the regime of Benin Republic. But it is possible to predict the impact of the differences between French and common law systems, including human rights practice and law. International human rights issues may be implicated.
“Again, there is the political dimension due to the hullabaloo caused by the arrest and nature of alleged crime against Sunday Igboho. The pressure may be much. The worry here is that the refusal to extradite Sunday Igboho may trigger diplomatic row between Nigeria and Benin Republic, and the subregional influence of Nigeria may be at play. Let us wait for the details of the request!
Igboho’s expression of view not criminal —Hannibal
Also speaking on the issue, the President African Bar Association, AfBA, Mr. Hannibal Uwaifo said: “Extradition procedures are enshrined in the Laws of various Countries including Nigeria and Benin republic. Before an extradition can hold there must be a treaty to that effect between the two Countries. I believe Nigeria has an extradition treaty with Benin republic and several People have been extradited in the past. In most extradition procedures, the offence allegedly committed must also be an offence in the Country of arrest. I learn that treason and unlawful possession of firearms are also offence in Benin republic, so I believe the procedure may succeed but that is not to say that Mr Sunday Adeyemo or Mr Igboho does not have a good defence to ward of the extradition procedures or defend himself if extradited and arraigned in Nigeria, it’s just that we don’t know what his defence is and Lawyers are not expected ethically to do their Client’s case in the Press.
“On my part , I cannot support the Nigerian Government because the regime has not been able arrest and Prosecute Bandits and terrorists who bastardize and Vandalize Nigeria everyday killing, maiming, looting and burning proprieties to my mind Mr Adeyemo and co have only expressed their views except there is Solid evidence that they did so unlawfully.”
Benin must weigh all factors before extradition—Shittu
Law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Wahab Shittu said: “Extradition is both a legal and political process. It is however more political than legal. The Republic of Benin, being a sovereign state, is entitled to weigh all factors and determine, whether in the circumstances, it is expedient to extradite Mr Sunday Igboho. The Nigerian state,can however, not compel the Republic of Benin to extradite as a sovereign state cannot inter-plead another sovereign state. My position is based on legal standpoint and considerations.”
Former 2nd Vice-President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Monday Ubani on his part said: “If it is extradition, it will involve the judiciary in Benin. There are legal steps and judicial proceedings to follow. It is not going to be easy for Nigeria. Does Nigeria and Republic Of Benin have extradition treaty? If they do, then other things and adherence to the legal terms and conditions for a successful extradition will have to be complied with for him to be successfully extradited to Nigeria.”
Extradition at this stage unknown to law—Omodele
Also commenting on the matter, Yemi Omodele stated thus: “There have been some conceptions and misconceptions about the arrest and detention of Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho in the rem of international and local laws by scholars and legal minded persons. If it is true as published in the daily newspapers and aired in some media houses that Igboho presented a forged Benin Republic International Passport to the immigration officials in that country in a bid to travel to Germany and was arrested and detained for that offence, the offence is guided by the local law of Benin Republic. Talking about extradition at that stage is funny and unknown to law. However, after the country where such offence is committed might have investigated him, charged him to court, tried him and either find him guilty or not is when the issue of extradition can be discussed.
Though Nigeria if interested in extraditing him may kick start it but can only be achieved after the trial. It should be noted that extradition operates at international law level which suffices to say that if there is a valid extradition treaty between Nigeria and Benin Republic, the letters of such law must be followed strictly. Nigerians should note that Benin Republic is a French speaking country. Forgery is a grave offence at local and international levels though fair hearing and fair trial must be put into consideration at the appropriate court of law. Extradition is not a thing of noise making. Alot will be done.
“If Nigeria discovers that there is no valid and subsisting treat on extradition between the two republics, there are other ways in international law to be adopted. In away if the defendant or the accused is found guilty of the offence, treaty on prisons may technically be adopted. The place of serving jail terms may be considered. In the event that no valid treaty between the two countries, it will take two to tangle. The legal teams of Igboho and Federal Republic of Nigeria should make proper and adequate consultations with lawyers who are specialists in international law and forget guessing about the issue. There are ways out for both sides. One thing should be noted by Nigerians that the land borders between Nigeria and Benin Republic have been closed for about two years which has one way or the other affected the economy of the two countries but particularly Benin Republic. Do you think such country will take it lightly with Nigeria. I do not think so. We should be guided by the principle of reciprocity.”