Beninise Court Orders Release of Igboho’s Wife as FG Mulls Options
Cour D’Appel De Cotonou in Benin Republic, yesterday, after a hearing ordered the release of Mrs. Ropo, wife of a Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho.
This development came at a time the federal government was reportedly mulling its options over the fate of detained secessionist agitator in a neighbouring country, THISDAY has learnt.
Igboho appeared in a Benin Republic Court on Thursday as hearing over his extradition commenced.
But a foremost human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said the government could not bring Igboho back to Nigeria without first making a formal request for his extradition and prosecution in Nigeria, which must pass through Benin Republic’s legal system.
Falana, however, accused Nigeria’s new Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd), of hurriedly submitting an application for the deportation of Igboho to Nigeria.
He said the request for Igboho’s extradition would be pursuant to the provisions of the Economic Community of West African States’ Convention A/P.1/8/94 on Extradition, applicable in the 15 member states of ECOWAS.
Igboho was arrested with his wife, Ropo, at a Cotonou airport on their way to Germany. The Benin Republic authorities arrested Igboho over an unspecified immigration offence and subsequently arraigned him. Igboho appeared in court yesterday.
But, while the court ordered Mrs. Adeyemo’s release after a hearing, Igboho was returned to the custody of Brigade Criminelle in Cotonou, Benin Republic, while the case was subsequently till today, July 23, 2021.
Mrs. Adeyemo was said to have been released after the court found out that she had not committed any offence.
Confirming this, National Chairman of Ilana Omo Oodua, Professor Wale Adeniran, said to the press,“Yes, she has been released”.
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that there were two options under consideration by the Nigerian government. The first option was to pursue the extradition of Igboho to Nigeria to face trial to a logical conclusion.
In the alternative, diplomatic pressure could be applied on the Benin Republic authorities to ensure that the activist was jailed in that country for immigration offences.
A source told THISDAY, “The option to bring him back to Nigeria to face trial is still on the table. There is also the other issue that it will be in the interest of peace loving people for him to stay there, if they find him guilty of the immigration offence, which is why they arrested him. Did Nigeria arrest him? If he is convicted there, Nigeria will rest.”
On his part, Falana said Igboho could not be extradited to Nigeria without adherence to due process as prescribed by Article 12(4) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
The human rights activist stated, “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.
“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.”
Falana explained, “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 Organisation (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.”
Falana further said, “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.”
Falana also stated, “Furthermore, an extraordinary (extra-legal) rendition frustrates the requirements of the African Charter and the Covenant that anyone who is arrested or detained should have a right to challenge the validity of his or her detention. The seizure and rendition of suspects may be characterised as a ‘forced disappearance’ under international human rights law, by which an individual is abducted by persons acting on behalf of or with the acquiescence of the State, followed by a denial (or obfuscation) of information or other forms of accountability by State authorities.
“From the information at our disposal, the new Ambassador of Nigeria to Benin Republic, General Yusuf Buratai (retd), has hurriedly submitted an application for the deportation of Igboho to Nigeria. With respect, the request cannot be granted, as it has to comply with Article 18 of the Extradition Convention. It is not sufficient to state that Igboho is wanted for terrorism and murder.
“The request must be supported by a statement of the offences for which extradition is requested, the time and place of their commission; their legal descriptions; and a reference to the relevant legal provision shall be set out as accurately as possible; and an authenticated copy of the relevant law indicating the sentence which may be or has been imposed for the offence.
“To that extent, the Republic of Benin has not received a proper request from the federal government for the extradition of Igboho.”