Trouble Looms As Benin Republic Draws Battle-line With Nigerian Government, Rejects Sunday Igboho’s Extradition To Abuja
The Republic of Benin has resisted Nigeria’s attempts to hastily extradite the Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, to the headquarters of the Department of State Services in Abuja.
The Federal Government planned to extradite the activist on Wednesday (yesterday), but Benin Republic insisted that it would not be part of any process that was against due process.
A security source in the West African country, who spoke to The PUNCH, said, “The Nigerian government planned to extradite him on Wednesday, but our government said the rule of law must be followed as the world is watching us.”
One of the lawyers of Igboho, Pelumi Olajengbesi, in an interview with newsmen, said Benin Republic had shown itself to be a country that respects the rule of law and due process.
The lawyer said Igboho’s legal team in Benin Republic were in talks with the Beninise government, noting that despite pressure from the Nigerian government, the government of Benin had insisted on following due process including a repatriation hearing to determine whether or not Igboho was guilty as accused by the Nigerian secret police.
The DSS on February 26, 2021, attempted to arrest Igboho along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway when the activist and his supporters were on their way to meet with the 93-year-old Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, but pandemonium broke out and the DSS was unable to arrest him.
However, the secret police raided Igboho’s residence in the Soka area of Ibadan on July 1, 2021, arrested at least 12 of his associates and killed two others during the bloody raid. Igboho escaped the raid and the secret police subsequently declared him wanted for allegedly stockpiling arms to destabilise Nigeria under the pretext of the Yoruba nation agitation, but Igboho denied the allegation.
The activist, who went underground, was, however, apprehended by Interpol at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, Benin Republic on Monday night. Igboho and his wife, Ropo, were arrested while trying to catch a flight to Germany.
The government beefed up security at Iwajowa, Saki West and Ibarapa local government areas of Oyo State which were adjoining areas to Benin Republic.
According to the report, the Nigerian government foresaw the possibility of Igboho flying to Europe through Benin Republic and planted a landmine for him in the country through its Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.).
It was also reported that Buratai, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, had also been pushing for the extradition of Igboho to Abuja but Igboho’s lead counsel, Yomi Aliyyu (SAN), noted that his client could not be extradited because the 1984 Extradition Treaty between Nigeria, Benin and two others excluded political refugees like Igboho and his wife.
A member of Igboho’s legal team, Olajengbesi told one of our correspondents that Igboho and his wife, a German citizen, were still in police custody in Cotonou and his lawyers were meeting with the government to argue their case.
He said, “The disposition of Benin Republic is that it is a country that respects the rule of law. We are making efforts that he is not repatriated wrongly to Nigeria. We are ensuring that everything is done in accordance with the law and we are very hopeful that we would succeed because we expect that there should be a repatriation hearing before they can extradite him if at all they would do that.”
A source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said, “The Nigerian government has made attempts to get him (Igboho) but Benin Republic didn’t release him. The Nigerian government has asked him but the Beninise government has not released him because the latter has not even identified him as a Nigerian. The only instrument they can use to identify him as a Nigerian is the passport but that is not what was found with him.
“The Nigerian government is still quiet two days after the arrest because it does not have control over the situation. There is a procedure that the law establishes including a repatriation hearing to determine whether the person in question has committed the offence and why he or she should be repatriated or not.”
Meanwhile, the Beninese lawyers representing Igboho have sought the intervention of the German government to halt the planned extradition of the Yoruba nation activist.
This, it was gathered, was meant to put diplomatic pressure on Cotonou and foil the moves by the Federal Government to influence the Beninese government.
A member of Igboho’s legal team, Olajengbesi, disclosed this to one of our correspondents on Wednesday.
He said Yoruba activist’s lawyers in Nigeria would also dispatch a similar letter to the German Embassy in Abuja on Thursday (today).
He stated, “We have written to the German government to intervene and stop the illegal extradition of Igboho and we are expecting a due response from the German government. The wife is German and that made it convenient for us.
“The lawyers in Benin have formally written to the German government and so we expect them to intervene. We (Igboho’s lawyers in Nigeria) have not written to the German embassy in Nigeria because it is a public holiday but by tomorrow (today), steps will be taken in that regard.”
Olajengbesi said the Beninese government would not succumb to pressure from the Federal Government to extradite Igboho to Nigeria, noting that “Benin Republic has a certain level of decency in terms of respect for the rule of law which is encouraging.”
He attributed the reported maltreatment of Igboho by security agencies in Benin to letters allegedly written by Buratai, who asked the government to arrest Igboho whom he accused of being a hardened criminal.
The lawyer added, “The government is treating Igboho like a criminal because of the letters written by retired Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai to the government in Benin describing Igboho as a hardcore criminal.
“We have communicated to the government in Benin that he is not a criminal but an advocate for justice in Nigeria and so, he must be given such due.”