Igboho: Nigerian govt faces disgrace in Benin Republic

The battle to silence self-determination agitations by the Nigerian government has shifted to Benin Republic following the arrest of prominent Yoruba nation agitator, Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo a.k.a. Sunday Igboho at an airport in the West African country.

Igboho with wife, Ropo

The taking into custody of Sunday Igboho roused the Nigerian government to demand his extradition. But many of his supporters believe that if extradited to Nigeria he would be denied justice and subjected to torture and extra-judicial treatments.
The condition of his aides arrested by DSS agents, who stormed his residence in Soka, Ibadan, at about 1am last July 1, remains a sour point against the government. The arrested 12 men and a woman are said to be locked in an underground cell in a DSS facility in Abuja and held incommunicado, against the law which stipulates that after two days, suspects being held should be charged to court.
During the invasion, two men were killed by the operatives, with Igboho escaping by the whiskers.
The manner of the attack with about 100 armed security forces at about 1am without court warrant, was a suspect, many reasoned that Igboho could have been killed if he did not escape that night and the invasion blamed on Unknown Gunmen.
“Such government cannot be trusted,” a commentator who pleaded anonymity posited.
This has cast doubts on the federal government’s true intentions and its ability to dispense justice according to internationally agreed standards.
And then, immediately news emanated that Igboho had been picked up at the airport in Benin along with his wife, Ropo, on their way to Germany, the Nigerian government, reportedly became excessively active and went into overdrive.
Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin Republic, ex-Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a man believed to be very close to President Buhari, allegedly flew a helicopter in to have Igboho taken promptly to Nigeria but this was purportedly rebuffed by the Benin authorities, a country acclaimed to be a respecter of the rule of law.
It was said to have demanded upon on which basis it would bundle a man arrested in its country into a plane and fly him out. It insisted on the rules of law, hence the court process now ongoing in respect of the matter.
On the first day of court sitting over the case, Igboho’s wife was ordered to be released by the court on the ground that she had committed no offence.
In the case of the Yoruba self-determination agitator, he is still being held in custody on the ground of Nigeria’s barrage of accusations against him.
According to an alleged letter, forwarded to Nigeria’s border countries earlier, Igboho was labeled a “secessionist,” “gun runner” and “inciter of violence.” It is on the basis of this that he is being detained in Benin, with the small West African country reported to have however requested Nigeria to produce evidences to back these claims. None is yet to come.
Interestingly, the matter had attracted world-wide interest, with many countries looking to see how Benin will conduct itself, moreover when Ropo is a German citizen. Yoruba people at home and abroad including the Yoruba natives in Benin Republic, where their population is 12 %, have also risen in the defence of Igboho.
Hear what a former Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Professor Bola Akinterinwa, said, “Igboho’s issue is not as simple as the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari may want to take it, because Sunday Igboho is a representation and manifestation of the thinking of Yoruba people home and abroad.
“In this case, the Yoruba people do not think that Sunday Igboho has committed any offence beyond his agitation for Oduduwa Republic, which isn’t illegal internationally.”
That sums up the generality of opinion in the South West of Nigeria. Then, If the opinions of some legal practitioners are considered it is certain the federal government may have its nose bruised over the Sunday Igboho’s conundrum in the end of the day especially if Benin Republic stands to follow due process and abide by whatever its court says in the face of the humongous influence believably being exerted by Nigeria.
In the meantime, the legal fireworks will continue tomorrow at the Benin High Court.
In a report by tribuneonlineng.com, titled, “Igboho: NBA chiefs, SANs tackle FG on extradition,” the views of several prominent Nigerian lawyers are published, reproduced here by ogbomosinsightonline.com.
It reports: One of the country’s oldest senior advocates of Nigeria, Chief Ladi Rotimi-Williams said he can’t locate in law what Igboho has done wrong, to warrant extradition to Nigeria.
He reasoned that the Benin Republic was too decent a country to engage in illegal extradition.
He said, “Right now Sunday Igboho has not breached any law to warrant his extradition. At least from what we have been hearing. ECOWAS court may have jurisdiction but he may not be extradited considering what reportedly happened in his house. Given this fact, the Benin Republic may not want to extradite him. Benin hasn’t charged him with any offence. It is a decent country, colonised by France. Only Nigeria is behaving backward. In this case, Yoruba have demonstrated brilliance in handling the issues, arising from the arrest, without resorting to violence.”
National Welfare Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Kunle Edun, in a lengthy response, examined the pros and the cons of the arrest, declaring that no offence could be pinned on Igboho in Benin Republic.
According to him, “Nigeria is a leading member of ECOWAS and it is expected to show good example in complying with the Conventions and Protocols signed by all ECOWAS members. The case of the Yoruba self-determination activist, Sunday Igboho who was arrested and is facing extradition proceedings in a court in Benin Republic is one that can only be guided by the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition and the Extradition law of Benin Republic.
“There are procedures that must be followed by a Requesting country, like Nigeria before the court can grant its request. The reason for this is that international law protects political refugees and would protect persons who are being persecuted because of their political views. Can Nigeria justify the extradition of Sunday Igboho?
“The Federal government of Nigeria must first make a written request to the Republic of Benin for the extradition of Sunday Igboho in accordance with the provisions of the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Extradition Law of Benin Republic.
“The Nigeria government must comply with the provisions of Article 18 of the Extradition Convention and provide documents that will show that Sunday Igboho has committed an offence in Nigeria for which he is facing trial. The full particulars of the offence, the law infringed upon and sentence must be stated.
“Nigeria cannot just wake up and rush to court to file a charge. There must be a pre-existing charge which must not have any scintilla of political or ethno religious persecution. A warrant of arrest must also have been issued by a court in Nigeria for his arrest pursuant to the charge that was filed. As a matter of fact, the entire bundle of the charge sheet, evidence and the investigation reports must be submitted alongside the Request for extradition.”
The former spokesperson of the lawyers’ body added, “It is no secret that Nigerian security agencies flagrantly arrest citizens without warrant of arrest or declare suspects wanted without first applying for a warrant of arrest and getting an order of court directing the publication of the details of the suspect as a wanted person.
“The provisions of the Nigerian Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 are flagrantly violated by the Police, DSS and the EFCC who revel more in the indiscriminate arrest of citizens without deference to judicial processes. International law does not allow such impunity.
“Upon receipt of the Extradition Request, the appropriate Court in Benin Republic will look through the documents provided and determine whether it should grant the application for extradition or refuse it. The court may also consider trying the offence in Benin Republic under its own laws, particularly if the acts complained of by Nigeria also constitutes an indictable offence in Benin Republic. This option may be taken by the court where there is evidence before it, indicating that Sunday Igboho may not be accorded fair hearing in Nigeria.
“In determining whether he will be accorded fair hearing in Nigeria, the Court in Benin Republic may consider the history of human rights abuse in Nigeria, the consistent flagrant abuse of judicial process and disobedience of judgments of courts by the Nigerian State and other State authorities and how suspects facing trial are treated in Nigeria.
“Recall, that only recently the Federal High Court of Nigeria directed the DSS to produce some persons arrested at the residence of Sunday Igboho who are in detention and have not been charged to court for more than 7 days contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, that arrested suspects be charged to court within a maximum period of two days. Presently, they are being held by the Nigerian government without a remand order of court.”
Reaching a conclusion on the matter, Edun unequivocally submitted, that “Under international law, which all civilized countries subscribe to, Sunday Igboho cannot be expelled from Benin Republic and deported to Nigeria without complying with the due process provided by the aforesaid laws. Moreso, by the provisions of Article 12(4) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights: ‘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.’
“It has not been shown that Sunday Igboho committed any offence in Benin Republic. It has also not been shown that he is facing any criminal charge in Nigeria and that there is a subsisting warrant of arrest issued by a competent court against him. For now, let’s see how it plays out in the court.”
The new chairman of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr Monday Onyekachi Ubani, said what the Nigerian authorities got away with, with the extradition of Nnamdi Kanu, have been difficult to replicate, in Igboho’s case, because Yoruba leaders and elders rose up, for due process. He was almost certain nothing could be pinned on Igboho, both in Benin and from Nigeria, to warrant his deportation.
Ubani, popularly known as MOU, said, “I think they (Nigerian government) want to extradite him, but they can’t do it illegally. It is a judicial process and not the way they brought Kanu back to Nigeria. Even that particular one, will become an issue later because Britain is now asking Nigeria to explain how he was extradited from Kenya.
“In this case, Yoruba intelligentsia rose up and insisting it must be by judicial process. You have to give reasons, not just abducting anyone. You have to show evidence of the offence committed. It is not something you do without court order, or not legally done. Deportation is a matter of evidence, not abdication. To ensure he is brought back legally, Nigeria must convince Benin of his alleged crime.
“Because they couldn’t get him to return home immediately, the whole world is now aware of his case and that is why at the end of the day, Benin may likely release him. For now, there is no offence against him in Benin and once they don’t have any offence committed in their land, it would now be for Nigeria to battle it out in court that he has committed an offence, back home, for which he is wanted.
“This is someone you went to his house for a raid without a valid court order and you now claimed recovery of arms from his residence and you want people to believe the gun-running claim? Now, he has said those guns do not belong to him.
“I understand self-determination is not an offence under African Charter and other international treaties, especially when you have not levied war against your country and Nigeria is a signatory to these charters and treaties, though self-determination isn’t in our constitution. It is like a marriage, you can’t force a partner to stay in it.
“From available facts, it may not be easy for the federal government to bring him back” the former 2nd Vice President of NBA concluded. When contacted, leading rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, simply said, “my position is that Nigeria has not made a proper request for his (Igboho’s) extradition.”
In an earlier written response, he had counselled Nigerian authorities not to expose themselves to international opprobrium by seeking extradition without evidence that could carry it through.
He said, “the Government of Benin Republic is detaining Igboho provisionally to await the request of the Federal Government for his extradition. It should be noted that the provisional arrest may be terminated if, within a period of twenty (20) days after the arrest, the requested State has not received a request for extradition from the requesting State in accordance with Article 15 of the ECOWAS Extradition Convention.
“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. “If there is no strong evidence that Igboho has committed criminal offences the Federal Government should not embarrass the country by requesting for his extradition.”
Calls to the mobile line of Dr Umar Jibril Gwandu, media aide to Abubakar Malami, SAN, Nigeria’s Chief Law Officer, went unanswered. As of press time, he was yet to return them.

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