Nigeria: Kanu, Igboho and Unresolved Issues

27 July 2021
opinion

What can I say? That General Tukur Buratai (Rtd) has found his real calling as an Ambassador and Detective, more so than a soldier?! Within a few weeks of his posting to the Republic of Benin, he was able to trace and orchestrate the arrest of Yoruba secessionist, Mr Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho in Cotonou, having failed to capture Abubakar Shekau and his group of terrorist insurgent criminals, Boko Haram (responsible for the kidnap, killing and displacement of thousands in the North), in almost six years as the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff! Similarly, Mr Nnamdi Kanu was picked up in Kenya, after running for dear life when the authorities invaded his home in 2017, and he too, very successfully evaded being captured in Nigeria.

Questions and Answers

Is it that the foreign security agencies are more efficient than ours in Nigeria? I don't think so. Or, is it that the Nigerian authorities are more interested in secessionists than criminals? The answer to this question, is Yes. Or, still, is it that there is simply a lack of will on the part of Government to bring the insurgents/bandits/herdsmen to book? It seems so.

Deployment of Technology

I will deal with the reason for my somewhat affirmative response to my last question, first. Some months ago, I watched a television interview in which Dr Doyin Okupe recalled how, when he was President Obasanjo's Media Adviser, he had sat with an Intelligence Officer who showcased a surveillance equipment to him. Dr Okupe recounted how they had watched and followed a gentleman from when he closed the door of his room at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja, until he boarded his flight at Abuja Airport. So, when they say criminals are inhabiting the Sambisa forest etc, I wonder why special equipment which Nigeria may already have, cannot be deployed to the Nigerian forests in a bid to locate criminals. I remember previously discussing the unsuccessful rescue of two foreigners in 2012, where the location of where they had been kept in Sokoto had been ascertained by their Governments through the deployment of surveillance/satellite technology. Granted, the equipment required to view dense forests may be different from that of those used to view open areas, but such equipment exists. So, why has Government failed to do the needful, so that six years into this administration, instead of quelling insecurity in Nigeria as promised, the situation has deteriorated to an all-time low?

With people like Sheikh Gumi, who actually even know the hideouts of some of these criminals having met with them, why is Government not following such leads and plucking these low hanging fruits? Why has Government not clamped down on Sheikh Gumi, the way it has done on Sunday Igboho? What crime did Sunday Igboho commit, apart from being a separatist agitator? For this reason, many Nigerians (at least in the South) are not only accusing Sheikh Gumi (rightly or wrongly) of being an accessory to criminality instead of being the negotiator and peacemaker he purports to be, but condemn Government for also turning a blind eye to the known atrocities being committed by the Northern criminals like Dogo Gide and Dan Karami, while dealing with the South with an iron fist, based on what may be unproven allegations.

Has Government forgotten that, its primary purpose is the security and welfare of the people (Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution), and that every Nigerian life is precious? Are the lives of the Chibok girls, Leah Sharibu, and the people of Benue and Zamfara State not valuable? Has the issue of tribalism now been extended to the capture of criminals/those Government may be looking for? Is this not the type of attitude that is fuelling the cries for secession? That the provisions in the Constitution regarding equity, equality, fairness, and justice for all Nigerians carry little or no meaning for this administration, and are nothing more than a mere farce to it? Can Government really continue to actively ignore the cries and complaints of its people, and dismiss them all as hate speech, conspiracy with Twitter to paint the Government in a bad light, treasonable felony and attempts to destabilise this administration, instead of facing reality and addressing them before things spiral totally out of control? Why is Government reluctant to use all the means available to it and recruit more if need be, to crush insecurity in Nigeria? Why the lack of will in some areas, while concentrating on others?

Fugitives and Extradition

Now, to the second question. Undoubtedly, Government is certainly more concerned about stamping out secessionist movements. While I'm firmly for 'One Nigeria' on the basis of equity, fairness, equal opportunity and justice, we just hope that at the rate we are going, there will still be a One Nigeria left, let alone one to secede from.

Black's Law Dictionary defines the word "Fugitive" to mean "... ..evasion or escape from arrest, prosecution or imprisonment". As far as this definition is concerned, Nnamdi Kanu was a fugitive escaping from prosecution, since he had already been charged for offences and jumped bail. As for Sunday Igboho, we are not aware of him having been charged for any offence, at least not before the DSS (Department of State Services) raided his home with venom, causing him to flee; so he cannot be described as a fugitive.

Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record or Cacofonix, even in the event that Mr Igboho was invited by the DSS, in a constitutional democracy, what is the legality of being invited to appear before an illegal law enforcement agency that has no establishment statute or identified mandate in law? Section 1 of the National Security Agencies Act 1986 (NSA Act) only recognises the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and State Security Service (SSS) for the effective conduct of national security in Nigeria. Specifically, Section 2(3)(a) of the NSA Act gives the SSS the mandate to prevent and detect any crime against the internal security of Nigeria. The DSS is unknown to law, and even if it is a successor-in-title to the SSS (for the sake of argument), for it to operate lawfully, the NSA Act would have had to be amended so to provide.

In Section 21(1) of the Extradition Act 1967 (EA) (which governs extradition in Nigeria), the definition of the term 'Fugitive' is somewhat different from that of Black's Law Dictionary, as it limits its meaning only to those who have committed offences outside Nigeria and have fled from justice to Nigeria, as in the case of late Senator Buruji Kashamu aka Esho Jinadu aka Alhaji, who was wanted by the American Government for drug charges allegedly committed in USA. So, as far as the EA is concerned, neither Nnamdi Kanu nor Sunday Igboho qualify to be referred to as fugitives. See the case of Orhiunu v FRN 1 N.W.L.R. Part 906 Page 39 at 58 per Galadima JCA.

"Extradition is the process of returning somebody upon request, accused of a crime by a different legal authority for trial or punishment - Page 170 Dictionary Law by L.B. Curzon, 6th Edition, 2002." - per Dongban-Mensem JCA (now PCA) in Udeozor v FRN 2007 15 N.W.L.R. Part 1058 Page 499 at 522.

Nnamdi Kanu who was facing charges before he jumped bail, was abducted/repatriated from Kenya. On the other hand, Sunday Igboho was not facing any charges. Going by the definition of extradition in Udeozor v FRN (Supra), how then does Mr Igboho fit in? At the time he fled, he was neither accused of a crime for trial, nor did he flee from prosecution. He fled in the interest of his own safety. In fact, in a civilised jurisdiction, the arms and ammunition which were allegedly discovered in Mr Igboho's residence when it was raided on July 1 would be inadmissible in a court of law, as even if there was a search warrant (which we cannot ascertain), not only was it improperly executed by an unlawful agency, the exhibits could have been planted there to incriminate him.

I use the word abduct for Mr Kanu, because the proper process for extradition was not followed in bringing him back to Nigeria. Section 2(1) of the EA makes the EA applicable to every separate country within the Commonwealth - which includes UK, Kenya and Nigeria. The three countries are also members of Interpol. And even where there is no extradition treaty between two countries, their Governments may agree upon terms and conditions to extradite a fugitive. In either case, that is, where there's an extradition treaty or there isn't, the Governments of both countries must be involved in the process. In this case, the British and Kenyan Governments should have been involved, because Nnamdi Kanu is a British citizen who was travelling on a British passport in Kenya. Strangely, however, the British Government had no knowledge of the extradition events, while the Government of Kenya has distanced itself from Mr Kanu's arrest, claiming they were not involved in it.

This is an indication that there is something wrong with how Mr Kanu was captured and brought back, which is why Government has kept the details of his arrest secret. Has Nigeria taken its lack of respect for the rule of law, across our borders into other countries? This reflects badly Nigeria, portraying us to be lawless. Be that as it may, I do not buy the Kenyan Government's feigning of ignorance. While I maintain (as I did a few weeks ago) that being British certainly does not confer diplomatic immunity or immunity from suit and legal process on Mr Kanu, certainly due process must/should have been followed in his arrest. See the principle of Extraordinary Rendition.

Additionally, extradition treaty or not, crimes which fugitives are usually extradited for are murder, sexual assault, drug charges, kidnapping, financial crimes and terrorism; Governments are reluctant to extradite those who are going back to face charges for political crimes like treason and treasonable felony, in their countries. I am not sure whether all the charges against Mr Kanu bordering on terrorism were struck out by the court in 2017, but some were; and even if they were not, we all know that his travails with the State were more of a political nature. And even if the Nigerian Government has filed fresh terrorist charges against him, for crimes that he may stand accused of orchestrating while he was on the run, which qualify as extradition crimes, there is a legal process which should have compulsorily been followed to extradite him, which was not.

Section 3 of the EA provides that a fugitive (as defined in Section 21(1) of the EA) shall not be surrendered if his offence is political in nature, that is to say, Nigeria will not surrender a secessionist if such fugitive fled to Nigeria from where the alleged crime was committed. If this administration was able to extend political crimes to an extradition crime of drug charges, and not only refused to surrender Senator Kashamu to the American Government, but proudly swore him in as a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic, why should the Government of the Republic of Benin surrender Mr Igboho for being a secessionist, contrary to Section 3 of the EA which prohibits our Government from doing same if the tables were turned? According to the principle of Reciprocity in International Relations and Diplomacy, "a State grants benefits and rights to another State, only if the other State grants the same treatment" - Republic of Benin has no reason to surrender Mr Igboho; and so far, they have refused to surrender him inter alia, on the ground that the Nigerian Government has failed to provide cogent reasons as to why they should accede to any request for his extradition. See the 1994 ECOWAS Convention on Extradition, on the conditions to be fulfilled (which Government has not), in making an application for extradition. It is also trite that the right to self-determination is well recognised, and is enshrined in the UN Charter. It is not a crime.

As for the issue of whether Mr Igboho was in possession of fake travel documents, even if it is true, the Republic of Benin and Nigeria are both ECOWAS countries and signatories to the 1951 Geneva Convention without reservation, it's 1967 Protocol and the African Refugee Convention. Under the 1951 Convention, asylum seekers who are fleeing for their dear lives and have no other means of travelling to safety but by the use of fake travel documents, have a good defence. See the 2016 British case of Syrian refugee, Roudi Chikho who had his conviction for using false travel documents to claim asylum overturned on appeal, on the basis of the 1951 Convention. See also the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the Principle of Non-Refoulement. The way the DSS descended on Mr Igboho's residence, killing two people and destroying his property with gusto and aplomb (and relish), it would have been foolhardy of him to have waited to be arrested and then the keys would be thrown away, or maybe even killed.

Conclusion

Going forward, the world is watching how the Nigerian Government will handle the issue of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho - call it a litmus test if you like. I can only advice Government to tread carefully, as the further mishandling of these two situations will most definitely lead to further agitations for secession and unrest. The other sensible thing to do, would be for Government to attend to the valid causes of some of these separatist agitations. They can no longer be ignored, swept under the carpet, or dismissed as the ramblings of troublemakers. They are real. I firmly believe that it is not too late for Government to right some of these wrongs, and douse the mounting tension in the country. I urge them to.

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