Nigeria court approves ex-finance official’s extradition to Britain
A Nigerian court has ordered the extradition to Britain of a former senior finance ministry official accused of taking bribes in exchange for a contract to print bank notes, court documents showed Monday.
Emmanuel Okoyomon headed the Nigerian Security, Minting and Printing Company in 2006 when an Australian firm, Securency International, won a contract to produce low denomination polymer bank notes for Africa’s most populous nation.
British authorities requested Okoyomon’s extradition following evidence that he deposited six payments from Securency International into his personal account in Britain, allegedly in exchange for the Nigerian contract.
Nigerian High Court Justice Evoh Chukwu said “there was enough material evidence to carry out the extradition order,” and ruled that Okoyomon should be transferred to British custody within 30 days.
Musliu Hassan of Nigeria’s Justice Ministry hailed the ruling as a “victory for justice.”
The contract awarded to Securency is widely regarded as a disaster which has wreaked havoc in Nigeria, Africa’s top economy.
The notes printed on polymer — which range from five naira ($0.02) to fifty naira — fade and deteriorate rapidly after entering into circulation and are often rejected by petty traders across the country.
For market and roadside vendors who rely on a large volume of trades each day to make ends meet, the shortage of usable, low denomination notes has caused endless complications, especially with coins no longer in circulation.
Following public outcry, Nigeria’s Central Bank sought to blame the country’s hot climate and humidity for the deterioration of the polymer notes.
But reports from other countries with similar climates where polymer notes lasted longer made clear that the Nigerian notes were of inferior quality.
The probe into Securency began in Australia in 2009, with investigators uncovering evidence that senior company officials had paid bribes for contracts in Nigeria, as well as in several Asian countries.
In the wake of the bribery claims, the Reserve Bank of Australia sold its 50 percent stake in the firm.
Nigeria’s Central Bank has since announced the phasing out of polymer notes and the return of low denomination paper notes.
Okoyomon’s arrest was spear-headed by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which has been criticised for failing to prosecute powerful officials suspected of graft.
Okoyomon’s lawyer, Chile Ekeocha, said his client may appeal the extradition ruling.