Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Diplomatic stalemate in Benin over Igboho’s detention, extradition

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief), Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan) and Ngozi Egenuka (Lagos)
22 July 2021   |   5:40 am
As extradition battle begins in Republic of Benin following Monday’s arrest of an embattled campaigner for Yoruba self-determination, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho...

Protests rock Ibadan, Cotonou
• Lawyer: Yoruba indigenes fought to stop standby helicopters from bringing Igboho to Nigeria
• 1984 extradition treaty: Igboho ill advised, should have fled through Niger, says Oyebode
• Agunloye: Agitation will continue until Buhari adopts principles of social justice
• Igboho not a criminal, Aare Onakankanfo, Okei-Odumakin, others tell FG
• The act alleged must constitute offence in host’s jurisdiction, Erugo

As extradition battle begins in Republic of Benin following Monday’s arrest of an embattled campaigner for Yoruba self-determination, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, his supporters, yesterday, took to the streets of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to protest his arrest and detention by Beninoise authorities.

Sympathisers took to the street in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, yesterday asking for the Benin Republic authorities to release Igboho immediately. They also warned against his planned extradition to Nigeria, saying he (Igboho) did not commit any crime to warrant his arrest and extradition.

The protesters, who also carried placards bearing solidarity messages for Igboho and condemnation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for selective justice and favouring his ethnic nationality above other groups in Nigeria, appealed to the international community, traditional rulers in Yoruba land and others to ensure that the activist is not hounded like a common criminal to Nigeria.

The protesters gathered in front of Igboho’s house in the Soka area of Ibadan from where they took to the streets around 12noon. They were singing the Yoruba nation anthem and chanting “Igboho Oosa”, “Free Igboho now,” while calling on Yoruba leaders and the international community to fight for his release.

Igboho is being held after he was arrested at Cotonou Airport with his wife on their way to Germany on Monday night to evade arrest by Nigeria’s secret police.

Mr. Yomi Aliyu (SAN), lawyer to Igboho, yesterday narrated how the freedom fighter was arrested in Cotonou and was to be flown to Nigeria on a waiting helicopter. Aliyu, who spoke during a radio talk programme on Rave FM, tagged Frank Talk, said one of Igboho’s brothers travelling with him before he was arrested was the one bundled into the plane heading to Germany, not Sunday.

Describing how the freedom fighter was arrested, he said Sunday was already in the plane with his wife and brother when someone pointed him out that he was wanted and was forced out of the plane along with his wife and brother by security operatives.

The lawyer said: “As of today (Wednesday) Sunday Igboho is still in police detention in Cotonou. While they were fighting with Sunday, his brother was bundled back into the plane heading to Germany; he is the one in Germany now, not Sunday.

“Sunday was brought down with the wife and brother and a fracas ensued because he was to be flown to Nigeria by a standby helicopter. But the wife and the brother put up a fight and started shouting at the airport, which attracted some other Yoruba indigenes and they came to their rescue.”

He added that his line of communication with Igboho is indirect and deliberately decided not to travel to the country to avoid being embarrassed.

He said: “My communication with him is indirect. We don’t want to create a situation where we now go to Cotonu and I will be embarrassed for some other things.

“We know who is heading the police, who is the High Commissioner on Cotonu. I can’t go to that area now, but I speak with him indirectly anytime I want to speak with him.

“I have been speaking with him through somebody that should know.

“I don’t belong to any group: neither Afenifere nor Oodua Nation. I am directly appointed by Sunday not for any group, not for Oodua group, not for Afenifere or anybody.

“In fact, my own philosophy is different from their philosophy. But professionally, I am for Sunday and the rule of Law nothing political.”

Some of the placards the protesters displayed read: “I stand with Chief Sunday Igboho”; “Sunday Igboho is not a criminal”; “Yoruba wake up” and “Sunday Igboho is fighting for our freedom.” One of the protesters, in a chat with newsmen, warned the Federal Government not to kill Igboho the way Chief MKO Abiola was allegedly killed.

The protesters later proceeded to the streets of Ibadan, calling for Igboho’s freedom. They said since Igboho has not committed any crime or killed anyone; he should not be subjected to the treatment he is going through.

One of the protesters said: “Help us ask President Buhari and his people, what is the offence of Igboho? He asked Fulani herders killing and raping our people to leave; is that an offence? The Federal Government knows where bandits and Boko Haram leaders are but they ignore them, preferring to use Nigeria’s resources to kidnap peace-loving people and put them in jail.

“We call on our Southwest governors and Yoruba monarchs to rise up and fight for the people that put them in position. It is not a crime if someone is asking for an end to oppression. The Federal Government is pushing too far in the way it is handling the issues of Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu.”

The protesters blocked Soka junction road, with hundreds of motorists caught in the traffic. They also blocked some sections of the road, which led to gridlock around the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Some motorists who were conversant with the road had to take alternative routes to avoid the area.

Sooner had they besieged the busy highway before armed policemen dispersed the protesters.

According to a resident, Musbau Ogunbiyi, “around 1:50 pm, the policemen came in about four patrol vans and a car. They shot in the air and chased away the protesters. They stationed themselves at strategic positions at the location. After clearing the traffic, they stayed for a while before they left around 4:00 pm.”

Also in Republic of Benin, some Yoruba people residing in Cotonou thronged the nation’s court, where it is believed the extradition hearing of Igboho will be held.

In a video on the Facebook page of Olayomi Koiki, Igboho’s media aide, the Yoruba in Cotonou were seen singing solidarity song and demanding freedom for Igboho. They also demanded an independent nation of the Yoruba people. They said they have confidence in the Benin Republic justice system, expressing optimism that Igboho will be freed.

EXPLAINING the extradition process, Akin Oyebode, a professor of international law and jurisprudence, noted that Nigeria is part of a quadripartite extradition agreement of 1984, between Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana.

He said: “Apparently, Igboho was not properly advised. If you are fleeing Nigeria, it is ill advised to go through Benin Republic. He ought to have gone through Niger and find his way to Europe but not through Benin Republic. That is why he is liable to be extradited. Even if there is no extradition treaty, it can also depend on the political relationship. Extradition is, however, a political matter, though people think it is legal.”

Former dean, Faculty of Law, Abia State University (ABSU), Prof. Sampson Erugo (SAN) explained that extradition involves returning a person accused of a serious crime or convicted for such crime, from one jurisdiction to another, as part of the criminal process.

“So, in the first place, there’s recognition of the sovereignty of the jurisdictions, and then agreement on cooperation, usually by treaty. If there is no existing treaty between relevant nations, there will be no basis for extradition process in court.

“Again, there are several conditions for the presentation of an extradition process. For instance, the acts alleged must constitute an offence in the host jurisdiction. Of course, politically motivated requests cannot be processed or granted. Extradition is the only legitimate process of returning a fugitive or one accused of crime from one jurisdiction to another, otherwise the exercise could be an affront to the sovereignty of another nation,” he stated.
Dr. Joshua Bolarinwa, an associate professor at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos, said: “A country has the right to extradite from another country somebody who has been alleged of some activities undermining the security of the state or someone who has been declared wanted and also made available to the International Police (INTERPOL).

“Extradition is made possible under the provision that the country where such a person that would be extradited, to the country that has requested or filed the extradition must both be signatories to the international law. That is the case in respect of Kenya and Nigeria over the issue of Nnamdi Kanu and the same thing is applicable to Sunday Igboho, because Benin Republic and Nigeria are both signatories to that law and are liable under that provision to carry out such obligations. Any country that is a signatory to that law can make such a request.
“It can also be based on the cordial or mutual relationship between countries. All of these would take a long due process and I am aware that the Benin Republic, though a small country, follows the law and is usually compliant to constitutionalism,” he added.

MEANWHILE, more reactions have continued to trail the arrest of Igboho, In his reaction entitled: ‘Sunday Igboho, Federal Government and Us’, former Minister of Defence and National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr. Olu Agunloye, said agitations will not abate until President Buhari adopt principles of social justice that will bring about peace, progress and prosperity to Nigerians.

He said: “Intercepting Sunday Igboho in a foreign land in a similar way to that of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, shows that President Buhari will accomplish whatever he considers a priority.

This latent political determination, now uncaged, can be very useful for positive and productive impacts.

“This is why we can only hope and expect that the government will include in its priority list the principles of social justice comprising equal access, inclusiveness, equity and respect for human rights to assure peace, roundtable conference and integration in Nigeria.”

According to him, “In this Cotonou interception, it will appear that abuse of rule of law and breach of the international process such as extraordinary rendition (also known as GK for Government Kidnapping) won’t be part of bringing Igboho back to Nigeria. This is because the Federal Government has commenced the due process of legal extradition.

“It does not matter much what happens next. If the government gets Igboho, a new dimension of the epic legal battle will commence in Nigeria, which will be more fuel for the agendas and agitations for the separationist movement. If the Federal Government fails to get Igboho, the de-novo activist cum traditionalist will go and cool off abroad. He will count his losses as well as ponder over his next moves. Either way, agitations will not abate in Nigeria until the President and his presidency adopt principles of social justice to bring about peace, progress and prosperity to Nigeria.”

President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, also raised the alarm that the life of Igboho may be in danger if the Federal Government succeeds in perfecting his extradition. Okei-Odumakin feared that Igboho’s safety could not be guaranteed or given justice if extradited to Nigeria.

In a statement she signed yesterday, she expressed fears that given the “prevailing circumstances” in a situation in which the Nigerian government treats bandits, herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists with kid gloves; there was no guarantee that Igboho’s safety could be assured.

Also, the Aare Onakankanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, said the government’s attempt to criminalise Igboho’s case is capable of making the incumbent administration look tyrannical. He said nepotism, injustice and bad governance birthed agitations.

Adams, in a statement, condemned in strong terms, the arrest of Igboho in Cotonou. He urged the Federal Government not to trivialise issues of agitations, saying the call for the Yoruba nation came to the front burner in Nigeria’s political history as a result of growing injustice, nepotism, corruption and maladministration in the various sectors of the country.

Faulting the manner in which the Federal Government had treated Igboho in recent times, the Yoruba Generalissimo expressed sadness over the way the FG had trampled upon the rights of the activist, declaring that the government must be fair in handling his case and that of other agitators.

“The FG will be making a big mistake if it decides to treat agitators of Yoruba nation as common criminals or enemies. Igboho has a right to his freedom. There is nothing bad for him to seek asylum in the Republic of Benin, and he is entitled to seek refuge in a foreign land if he thinks his safety cannot be guaranteed here in Nigeria,” he said.

Similarly, a youth group, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA) Worldwide, has urged Yoruba leaders and legal advisers to Igboho to intensify efforts in ensuring that he is not extradited.

This was contained in a statement made available to journalists by the National President and Secretary of the group, Hammed Olalekan and Olawale Ajao respectively. The group pointed out that the activist had no past criminal record.