Court bars AGF, others from arresting Kashamu
JUSTICE Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday restrained Nigerian security agencies from arresting and forcibly moving the senator-elect for Ogun East Senatorial District, Buruji Kashamu to the United States of America, to stand trial on alleged drug-trafficking offences.
The judge made the pronouncement in a judgment, which he delivered in respect of a fundamental rights action filed by Kashamu.
He also ordered the unhindered swearing-in of Kashamu as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with all the attached privileges since his victory in the March 28, 2015 election had not been upturned.
Justice Abang said any attempt to forcibly transport Kashamu to the United States of America to stand trial in relation to drug-trafficking allegations from which he had been exonerated by two British courts is illegal.
Abang also granted Kashamu’s prayer that having earlier obtained the judgment of a Nigerian court on January 6, 2014 barring his arrest and extradition to the US, and the judgment having not been set aside, the respondents could not arrest and extradited him to the US.
Kashamu had instituted the fundamental rights enforcement action in April 2014, alleging that there was a plot by his political opponents, led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to use Nigerian security agencies to abduct and forcibly transport him to the US to stand trial before Judge Norgle.
He sought a declaration of the court that the move amounted to a violation of his rights to liberty, freedom of association and freedom of movement as provided by sections 35, 40 and 41 of the Constitution.
Those he listed as respondents in the suit are the Inspector General of Police; the Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Director General, Department of State Service; the Interpol National Central Bureau and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Others are the Clerk of the National Assembly; the National Security Adviser to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission; Nigeria Customs Services; the Nigeria Immigration Service; and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Meanwhile, there were strong indications yesterday that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency may vacate the premises of embattled senator-elect sequel to its submission to obey the decision of the court.
The agency’s Head, Public Affairs, Mitchell Ofoyeju, in a statement made available to The Guardian said, “The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) will obey the decision of the court of competent jurisdiction on the ongoing case involving senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu. As a government agency and a law enforcement institution that has respect for the rule of law, the NDLEA will abide by the decisions of a competent court.
“This is a legal issue and the Agency has windows of opportunities to explore legally in advancing its course. NDLEA will not violate court orders or take law into its hands in enforcing its statutory responsibilities.”
The agency however did not state in clear terms when its officials would vacate the premises.
However when The Guardian arrived Kashamu’s Lekki phase 1 residence at about 5pm, officials of the agency were seen milling around the ash colour duplex. About 10 Hilux vans were placed at strategic positions within and around the vicinity, with the armed officials, some of whom were masked patrolling. The officials numbering over 20 were stationed in the vans while some were seen going in and out of the sealed building.
Abang, in his judgment dismissed the objection by all the respondents that the suit was merely speculative and held that Kashamu had reasonable cause of action.
The court in upholding Kashamu’s claims said he had shown enough cause to be apprehensive that the respondents had plans to abduct him.
Justice Abang said, “The entire claim of the applicant are within the ambit of Chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution.
“If the applicant is abducted, kidnapped and taken to the US by force, without the respondents complying with the Extradition Act, it means that he is taken away without his consent and that would constitute a breach of his fundamental right to personal liberty and freedom of movement as enshrined in sections 35 and 40 of the 1999 constitution.