Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Saturday disclosed that contrary to the impression that Nigeria’s southwest governors were silent on the arrest and detention of the Yoruba Nation’s activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a Sunday Igboho) by the authorities of the Republic of Benin, ‘people’ were working silently on the travails of the self-determination agitator.
Also, contrary to reports that the federal government was seeking the extradition of Igboho to Nigeria, one of his Beninoise lawyers, Prof. Ibrahim Salami, on Saturday revealed that the Nigerian government has not requested his extradition from the Francophone country.
The professor of law at a university in the Republic of Benin also faulted claims that security operatives arrested Igboho alongside his wife, Ropo at the Cardinal Bernardin Gantin International Airport, Cotonou, with the passport of Benin Republic.
Addressing journalists Saturday at the Polling Unit 019 Ward 08, Ikoyi II, where he cast his vote during the Lagos State Local Government/Council Areas elections, Sanwo-Olu disclosed that “people are working behind the scenes concerning the apprehension and prosecution of Igboho at the Republic of Benin.”
Sanwo-Olu was asked to respond to the alleged presumed silence of southwest governors on the arrest of Igboho.
In his response, he said: “These are very difficult times for all of us. I can assure you that people are working behind the scenes. On occasions like this, it is not by how many press people you call.
“I am aware that a lot of people have responses that they are doing quietly and privately. It does not have to be a public conversation,” he explained.
Meanwhile, contrary to reports that the federal government was seeking the extradition of Igboho to Nigeria, one of his Beninoise lawyers, Salami has revealed that the Nigerian government has not requested his extradition from the Francophone country.
Speaking Friday in an interview with BBC Yoruba Service, Salami disclosed that the Nigerian government only brought allegations of arms trafficking, inciting people to disintegrate Nigeria and fuelling social unrest in some parts of the federation, against Igboho.
Salami disclosed that Nigeria had not formally made any request for the extradition of Igboho from the Republic of Benin to Nigeria based on the documents filed before the Cotonou Court of Appeal.
He acknowledged that the Nigerian government wrote Benin Republic that Igboho was on the wanted list and that the embattled agitator for the Yoruba Nation should be detained if found within the territorial jurisdiction of the Francophone country.
The lawyer explained that the authorities of Benin Republic did not apprehend Igboho because he violated the Constitution of Benin Republic or any law of the Francophone country.
Rather, according to him, Nigeria claimed that Igboho violated its domestic laws at home.
“Igboho did not violate any law in the Benin Republic. We are not afraid of that,” he added.
He said before the Republic of Benin could release Igboho to the Nigerian government, the Federal Republic of Nigeria had to prove before the court of competent jurisdiction in the Francophone country that he violated Nigerian laws as claimed.
For now, Salami said: “Nigeria has not been able to prove that Igboho violated its domestic laws. But we do not want a situation where the Republic of Benin will keep him for a long time and allow Nigeria to file additional documents before the court.
“Based on court documents, there are currently three allegations that Nigeria brought against Igboho at the Cotonou Court Appeal. First, Nigeria accused him of arms trafficking. We are surprised to learn of this allegation.
“Second, Nigeria claimed that Igboho was fuelling social unrest in Nigeria or inciting people to cause conflict in Nigeria. Third, Nigeria alleged that Igboho wanted to disintegrate Nigeria. We, Igboho’s lawyers, fought hard against these allegations.
“We established before the court that Igboho was a pacifist and that he exercised his right without using any arm or ammunition. Yoruba people worldwide must not allow Benin Republic to extradite Igboho to Nigeria because his life is under threat.”
Salami deflated claims that the agitator for the Yoruba Nation was arrested with the passports of Benin Republic and Germany, noting that the claims “are false and untrue.”
The lawyer explained how Igboho left Nigeria after the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) invaded his Ibadan residence, killing two of his supporters and destroying property worth millions of Naira.
He said: “When Sunday Igboho left Nigeria, he escaped through an illegal route because his life was under threat. He left Nigeria alongside his wife with the plan to travel to Germany because his wife and seven children are living in Germany.
“When he arrived at Benin Airport, security operatives stopped him because the Federal Government of Nigeria claimed that he was on its wanted list. They did not arrest Igboho because he violated the laws of the Republic of Benin.
“No, Igboho did not violate any law in the Republic of Benin. Security operatives did not also arrest him with the passport of the Republic of Benin. It is a lie that Igboho was arrested with the passport of the Benin Republic. Rather, he was arrested because Nigeria claimed Igboho violated its domestic law,” he said.
According to him, when Igboho was arrested at the Cardinal Bernadin International Airport, the security operatives of Benin Republic found a Nigerian passport with him and not the passport of the Francophone country as widely reported.
Inside Igboho’s Nigerian passport, according to Igboho’s lawyer, security operatives also found a German Residency Permit.
“There is no visa. Indeed, he does not need a visa to travel to Germany along with his wife because they have residency permits.
While he acknowledged that security operatives did not harass the embattled activist, Salami lamented that Igboho was detained with his hands handcuffed, which he said, violated the standard practice in Benin Republic.
He said: “When we visited Sunday Igboho in the police station, he was not abused or harassed. Security operatives did not put leg cuffs on Igboho’s ankles. But the police did something wrong. They handcuffed him while he was in detention.
“To eat and visit convenience was a big challenge to him. As a result, Igboho relied on people before he could eat or visit the toilet. That is against human rights. We brought the attention of the police and prosecutor to Igboho’s condition in detention.
“Despite bringing this violation to their attention, the police authorities in Benin Republic have not removed handcuffs from Igboho’s hands. That is not right by all standards. However, they did not harass him; neither did they put him in legcuffs.”
In a related development, Nigeria’s foremost scholar of jurisprudence and international law, Prof. Akin Oyebode has explained different conditions under international conventions and treaties extradition requests could be granted, though claimed that granting extradition requests is more political than legal.
Speaking to THISDAY on Igboho’s case, Oyebode explained that the ball “is clearly in the court of the Republic of Benin. The Republic of Benin might insist that the crime for which Igboho is being sought must be established prima facie in the court of Benin Republic.”
Under international law, Oyebode clarified that seeking self-determination was not a crime, noting that the Republic of Benin Republic “has obligation to reject Nigeria’s extradition request if there is any currently before the Francophone country.
“Do not forget the Republic of Benin has a substantial Yoruba population. Igboho will enjoy sympathy from the government and people of Benin Republic.”
The law professor, however, observed that the only problem Igboho might encounter was that there “is an old quadripartite agreement involving Benin Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. That is the 1984 Extradition Treaty,” which placed an obligation on the Francophone country to extradite the embattled agitator.
Except for the conditions that regulate extradition, Oyebode said: “It should be simple to extradite him. Also, Nigeria has soiled its hands due to attacks on Igboho’s friends, family members, and Ibadan residence.
“Two of those living were said to have been killed. That shows Nigeria acted Gestapo. And that might becloud Nigeria’s request to extradite Igboho. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
“If Benin Republic does not believe justice can be done in terms of rule of law, the presumption of innocence or fair hearing, they might refuse to surrender him.
“There is nothing Nigeria can do about it. If the Republic of Benin believes Igboho is a political fugitive, it might refuse to surrender. In international law, refusal to surrender a fugitive is tantamount to granting asylum.
“In other words, If the Republic of Benin grants him asylum, that puts an end to the whole matter. By implication, Igboho becomes a political refugee and has the right to live in the Republic of Benin,” the law professor explained.
Also, putting conditions for extraditing a fugitive in perspective, another scholar of International Law, Prof. Ademola Abbas has explained the diverse laid-down rules and conditions under which a fugitive could be extradited to his country of nationality, saying those conditions should be fulfilled before a country could grant an extradition request.
He said one of such conditions “is that a surrendering country can only repatriate somebody from territory if he has committed a crime in the requesting country.
“That crime cannot be a political crime and that if you repatriate them, he will not suffer discrimination and he will be guaranteed justice wherever you are repatriating to. There is a treaty obligation between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
“However, the salient question will be: has Sunday Igboho committed a crime in Nigeria? Will he be able to get justice in Nigeria? Or will he face discrimination? Will his trial be political? Those are critical questions that the Benin Republic must answer.
“The Republic of Benin, being an ECOWAS member, has those obligations under the ECOWAS Treaty, under African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. There are many international conventions that Nigeria and Benin Republic are signatory to.
“Even though there is a treaty between the two countries, that treaty itself does not take your other obligations away. In the instance of the 1994 ECOWAS Treaty, repatriation cannot only take place where there is due process.
“They must have subjected Sunday Igboho to due process of the Benin Republic. The court must be satisfied that if Sunday Igboho is repatriated to Nigeria, he will not face political trial and he will be guaranteed justice,” Abbas explained.
Gboyega Akinsanmi and Segun James