Sunday, 1st October 2023

Uncertainty trails Igboho’s ‘arrest’ in Cotonou 20 days after DSS raid

By Joseph Onyekwere (Deputy Editor), Seye Olumide, Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja) and Nnamdi Akpa (Abakaliki)
21 July 2021   |   4:30 am
Three weeks after he was declared wanted by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS), Benin’s Republican Police on Monday night reportedly nabbed popular campaigner for Yoruba self-determination, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho.

Sunday Igboho

• Igboho still in Republic of Benin in handcuffs, lawyer refutes release rumour
• DSS mum 24 hours after arrest at Cotonou airport
• Falana, Ozekhome, others react, call for due process
• Arrest is war on Yoruba people, says Adebanjo
• Akintoye vows to stop Igboho’s extradition to Nigeria
• Ohanaeze: Yoruba, Igbo’s consciousness incarcerated while bandits, terrorists roam free
• Northern coalition urges FG to expose sponsors of Kanu, Igboho

Three weeks after he was declared wanted by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS), Benin’s Republican Police on Monday night reportedly nabbed popular campaigner for Yoruba self-determination, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho.

Igboho was arrested in neighbouring Cotonou, Benin Republic, while trying to travel to Germany. According to local reports, Beninoise authorities arrested Igboho at Cardinal Bernardin International Airport, Cotonou.

He was “disembarked from his plane, arrested by the Beninoise police while he was trying to travel to Germany and then transferred to the Cotonou Criminal Brigade.”

As reactions and fireworks continued to trail the arrest, reports began filtering out that Igboho had been released and was already on a plane to Germany, but lawyer to Igboho, Yomi Aliyu (SAN) last night dismissed the rumour that the Yoruba agitator had been released by authorities of Republic of Benin.

In a telephone conversation with The Guardian, Aliyu said: “My brother, don’t be deceived. As we speak, Sunday is still in Benin and in serious pains. As a matter of fact, he is even crying now. He is not on his way to Germany.”

The Federal Government as at last night was yet to react to the development, though senior lawyers and leading Yoruba groups are calling on the government of Benin Republic to prevent Igboho’s extradition to Nigeria. Almost 24 hours after news of his arrest broke, the DSS is yet to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of the story.

DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, did not respond to calls and multiple text messages sent to him seeking confirmation on the matter.

The intelligence agency is reputed for keeping such level of operation that involves international relations top secret. For instance, the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was made public only 48 hours after he was extradited to Nigeria.

DSS had on July 1 declared Igboho wanted for allegedly stockpiling arms, an allegation he has since denied. His two associates were shot dead in an exchange of gunfire with the security operatives while 12 suspects were arrested during the operation on his residence in Ibadan.

At the press briefing at DSS headquarters, Afunanya had vowed that Igboho would be tracked and even advised him to turn himself in to security operatives.

Infuriated by wanton killings, rape, kidnappings and harassment in the Ibarapa axis of Oyo State, Sunday Adeyemo had on January 16, 2021, issued a seven-day ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen in Igangan, Ibarapa North Local Council of the state to leave the area or face eviction.

He made good his threat when he stormed the community on Friday, January 22, with hundreds of youths, leaving tales of wanton destruction, carnage and arson behind. Since that fateful Friday, the atmosphere in the zone had been tense and charged.

It was gathered that Igboho may be repatriated to Nigeria from Benin Republic today. In his reaction, his legal counsel, Aliyu urged the country to reject any extradition request from Nigeria.

According to him, the extradition treaty of 1984 between the countries excluded political fugitives. He said: “We urge the good government of the Republic of Benin and international community, especially Germany, to rise up and curb the impunity of the Nigerian Government by refusing any application for extradition of our client who already has application before ICC duly acknowledged.
“The Extradition Treaty of 1984 between Togo, Nigeria, Ghana and Republic of Benin excluded political fugitives. It also states that where the fugitive will not get justice because of discrimination and/or undue delay in prosecution the host country should not release the fugitive.
“Now, Article 20 of African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to which the four countries are signatories made agitation for self-determination a fundamental right to be protected by all countries. This means Chief Sunday Adeyemo, a political offender, cannot be deported and/or extradited by the good people of the Republic of Benin for any reason.”
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), expressed optimism that the government of Benin Republic would ensure that their legal system is upheld. He explained that Nigeria and Benin Republic operate under the rule of law and added that he expects that the law would be followed in bringing him back to Nigeria.

“Due process here would mean extradition law of that country. Apart from the arrest, Interpol does not get involved with extradition or deportation of anybody. In this particular instance, there is no evidence that Interpol was involved.
“Immigration officers in that country arrested him at the airport. It depends on why he was arrested, but Interpol does not get involved in extradition. If the Federal Government has made a request, it has to go through the due process of their system,” he told The Guardian.

IN his reaction, vocal lawyer and rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the Federal Government “appears supersonically effective and efficacious when it comes to arresting and repatriating dissenters and challengers of its morbid nepotistic and sectionalistic government.”
According to him, the same government paradoxically appears abysmally weak and hopelessly helpless when it comes to fighting AK-47 wielding armed bandits, Boko Haram and other deadly insurgents, including ransom-taking kidnappers, who are almost kidnapping the very heart and soul of Nigeria on a daily basis.
“To me, this lopsided template demonstrates acute intolerance and ambivalence. It shows self-contradiction. It shows an inclination towards enforcing laws against certain people, against certain classes of people, while at the same time turning away the other eye in enforcing laws against the other preferred and pampered set of people.

“Such does not make a nation grow. Such does not make democracy work. Such does not build confidence and inclusiveness, the very reasons for the Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu of this world. Such does not enjoin patriotism and building of nationhood.

“I am not impressed with this at all. The government may thump its chest for temporary gains. But, does this solve the problem? I see this as merely pursuing butterflies, while the house is on fire. Recall history: Major Kaduna Nzeogwu Chukwuma, Isaac Adaka Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni five! Are we out of the woods? I do not think so,” he recalled.
Also reacting, the chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Ubani, said whatever the situation, the fundamental rights of Igboho must be upheld and respected. “We are not clear on how the arrest was effected, if it was as a result of undergoing proper petition report and collaborative efforts by other countries.
“However, his right should be respected and he should be given all fairness, if it is for bail, he should be granted. Not to keep anyone in detention, who has not been convicted by the court,” he advised.
He explained that the protocol guiding arrest and extradition is such that when a person is placed on wanted list, any country that is a signatory to the extradition protocol can arrest and alert the country.
“It usually starts with proper declaration that a person is wanted in a country and that those countries who are signatories to any Interpol scheme should look out for such individual. But before that is done, there must be a proper agreement between the arresting country and the other,” he explained.

MEANWHILE, Yoruba nation agitation group, Ilana Omo Oodua, led by Prof. Banji Akintoye, in a statement yesterday said “it is currently working to provide assistance for Ighoho to prevent his extradition to Nigeria.

“We all know he has committed no crime. We have secured the services of a leading and highly respected lawyer whom we can confidently rely on. We know, furthermore, that for the protection of his people who are being brutalised, he has joined hands with many of his brethren to take the legally-appropriate step, namely to seek the intervention of the International Criminal Court.”

Igboho and Akintoye’s group had led rallies in Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Ogun states. He was planning to hold the rally in Lagos on July 3 before his home was invaded 72 hours to the planned date. He had also called for the eviction of Fulanis in Southwest states, an action that pitted him against the Federal Government.

Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Yoruba social-cultural group, Afenifere, has said President Muhammadu Buhari has declared war on Yoruba people following the arrest of Igboho.

SaharaReporters exclusively reported how Igboho was arrested in the Benin Republic on Monday night. Adebanjo told newsmen that Igboho should not be allowed to suffer alone for fighting for the liberation of the Yoruba.

“Yoruba worldwide should take to the streets to make sure that Sunday Igboho is not brought back to Nigeria and if they bring him back, the Yoruba should ensure that he is not badly tortured. They have declared war on our people.”

The Afenifere leader said Yoruba youth should rise and demand a restructuring of the country, first with the adoption of an equitable Constitution that will be written by all constituents that make up the country.

He continued, “Freedom is never given, it is always won. People are too afraid of this regime and we have said it over and over that they should be bold to confront them and take back their country.”

Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) has appealed to the international community, saying violent abuse of rights awaits Igboho, if extradited to Nigeria. In a statement by leader of ARG, Mr Wale Oshun, it stated that it is mind-boggling however that Nigerian central government’s concerted effort to ground the peaceful pursuit of self-determination by Igboho is not commensurate with its groveling attitude towards murderous herdsmen, whose plan to overrun Yorubaland and turn it into a terrorised space is not hidden – but for the solid determination of Yoruba governors. Similarly, we have not seen such concerted effort directed at checkmating bandits who have turned the country into a war zone.”
Oshun said this appears to be a blatant case of ethnic discrimination, by every democratic and civic governance standard. Adeyemo’s Ibadan home was viciously and illegally attacked in an unprecedented raid, and in a purportedly undemocratic setting without a valid search warrant. There was no evidence of any resistance against the raid, yet two innocent occupants of Igboho’s house were murdered in cold blood.”

The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) Secretary-General, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said Igboho must be given fair hearing. He said: “We expect the Federal Government to go through due process. They need to do thorough investigation that will lead to arraigning him in the court of law, laying the charges before him. We expect a fair trial, a fair handling of the situation. He should be given fair treatment. Since we are in a constitutional democracy, he should be treated fairly.

An ex-governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, advised the Federal Government to handle Igboho’s case with caution. Speaking during a press briefing at his Bodija, Ibadan residence, he said: “I want to appeal to the government to grant Igboho and (Nnamdi) Kanu amnesty just as some members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect were given amnesty.

“Igboho and Kanu are creations of the Federal Government. Why? Because whenever they arrested herdsmen who were killing their people, the Federal Government never acted. That was why those two people came up to defend their people.

“Boko Haram members that were arrested a year ago by the government have been released to the Borno State Government. The Federal Government created Sunday Igboho in the context of Igangan massacre.”

The Chidi Ibeh-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide yesterday asked why Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu who are Yoruba and Igbo’s consciousness are been incarcerated while Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and killer herdsmen are been pampered, describing such pampering as the route that will threaten the corporate existence of the country.

In a statement in Abakaliki, the Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, noted that it is worrisome that the Federal Government refused to take decisive action against those who took arms against the state. He therefore called for the unconditional release of the ‘Prisoners of Conscience.’

HOWEVER, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has said that with the arrest of Kanu and now Igboho, the Federal Government should go beyond prosecution to digging up and exposing their sponsors and the agenda behind them. This was contained in a statement on Tuesday signed by Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, spokesperson of the group.

The coalition said: “From the outset, we wish to be categorical that the arrest of Igboho and Kanu should not be mistaken as bringing about the end to the uprisings and disturbances over self-determination perpetrated by Southern Nigerian elites and governments who use thugs like Igboho and Kanu.

“We insist that rather than seeing the arrest as an end in itself, it should be the beginning of the processes for self-determination by any unit that wants to go. Therefore, we insist on a peaceful referendum for separation from a people who would at the slightest of pretexts, attack, kill and destroy people of other regions and their properties, especially those from the North.

“We all know that threats of violent secession anywhere are a grave offence that no government will condone. From records of history, it is only northern Nigeria that has not called for the breakup of the country at the slightest of pretence. With the arrest of Kanu and now Igboho, we are hoping that government would go beyond prosecution to digging up and exposing their sponsors and the agenda behind them.

“While Kanu’s case may be attributed to some form of insanity, which was exploited by the Southeast elites who were playing a double game, Igboho is a deliberate and calculated, supported and encouraged attempt by the Yoruba leaders including their governments, to scare the North into agreeing to cede power without competition.”