Nigeria: Protests Rock Cotonou Court Over Igboho's Extradition Hearing

22 July 2021

Supporters of a Yoruba secessionist agitator, Sunday Adeyemo otherwise known as Sunday Igboho, Wednesday, thronged a Benin Republic Appeal Court (Palais De Justice, Cour D'Appel De Cotonou) in solidarity, following his arrest on Monday by security agents working with International Police (Interpol) in that country.

Curiously, however, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, has been fingered in Igboho's arrest after he allegedly wrote a letter to Benin authorities ahead of Igboho's trip and consequently facilitated his arrest.

Buratai, who is Nigeria's Ambassador to Benin Republic, allegedly knew that Igboho's exit route would be a neighboring country and therefore pulled a fast one, which culminated in his arrest alongside his wife, Ropo, a German, at the Benin Airport on their way to Germany.

The Contonou court was billed to hear Igboho's extradition trial, which prompted his supporters to stage a protest, chanting Yoruba anthem and rendering songs to show solidarity with the activist.

Some of their placards bore such inscriptions as: "No going back on Yoruba Nation", "Igboho Oosa is our hero", "General Buhari is a dictator", "We are tired of Buhari and his Fulani killers".

Igboho was to be arraigned in the court in lieu of his extradition to Nigeria.

Media aide to Igboho, Mr. Olayomi Koiki, shared footage of the protest on Wednesday.

In the video, the protesters were seen singing solidarity songs demanding the immediate release of Igboho. They also demanded Yoruba self-determination, even as they debunked claims that Igboho had been freed, saying he was still in custody.

Similar protests were also held in Ibadan, Oyo State and in the United Kingdom.

Some lawyers were also seen at the court premises in Cotonou as security agencies were deployed to the area to maintain peace, the protesters called for his release.

Meanwhile, Buratai reportedly knew about the likelihood that Igboho would explore the option of travelling through a neighbouring country.

"The ex-army chief knew that Igboho has the only option of first fleeing to any neighbouring African country sharing borders with Nigeria and as Nigeria's ambassador to Benin, which shares several borders with Nigeria, he could not be caught napping," an Intelligence officer told PR Nigeria.

According to him, Buratai tinkered with the idea penultimate week and then wrote to the government of Benin Republic.

"Gen. Buratai insisted on the arrest and extradition of the self-acclaimed Yoruba secessionist leader. His secret letter to the Benin government was delivered through the Nigerian Embassy in Benin asking them to be on the lookout for Igboho."

Buratai's letter, according to the intelligence officer, was instrumental to the arrest of Igboho and his wife at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, the largest city in the French-speaking country.

"Igboho was arrested in Cotonou on Monday night while he attempted to travel. He was already at the airport with a passport. The immigration officers suspected the passport and so they stopped him. In the process, they discovered he was the one, and arrested him," he said.

Buratai had served as Force Commander of the then reconstituted Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTNF) in 2014 under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Benin Republic.

Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Olu Agunloye, said agitations would continue in the country until President Muhammadu Buhari adopted the principle of social justice that would bring about peace, progress and prosperity to Nigerians.

Agunloye, a former minister, said this in a statement titled: "Sunday Igboho, FGN and Us".

He said "intercepting Sunday Igboho in a foreign land in a similar way to that of Nnamdi Kanu, also in a foreign land, shows that our government will accomplish whatever it 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 in order to assure peace, roundtable conference and integration in Nigeria.

"ln this Cotonou interception, it will appear that abuse of rule of law and breach of the international process such as extraordinary rendition (or kidnap by government) won't be part of bringing Igboho back to Nigeria. This is because federal government has commenced the due process of legal extradition. However, at this stage, it does not matter much what happens next," he said.

He asserted that, "If federal government of Nigeria gets Igboho, a new dimension of the epic legal battle will commence in Nigeria and so will be more fuel for the agendas and agitations for separationist moves. If federal government fails to get Igboho, the de-novo activists 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 President Muhammadu Buhari and his presidency adopt principles of social justice to bring about peace, progress and prosperity to a Nigeria,where the people have agreed on how to live together, work together, weather storms together and develop together."

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