Igboho: How Benin Republic demanded extradition of ex-minister in 2019

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As the diplomatic fireworks continue in Cotonou, Benin Republic, on the extradition of Yoruba Nation arrowhead, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, facts have emerged that politically-motivated extradition is not new to Benin Republic, Nigeria’s neighbour in the West African sub-region.

 

According to the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the United States Department of State, the government of Benin Republic in 2019 attempted to misuse international law enforcement tools for politically motivated purposes against specific individuals located outside the country.

The report partly read, “In April 2019 a Spanish court rejected the government’s request for the extradition of former minister of finance Komi Koutche, who had been arrested during a stopover in Madrid in 2018 based on an Interpol (International Police Criminal Organization) Red Notice.

“The court cited lack of evidence to substantiate the request, potential political motivation for the request, and CRIET (Court to Counter Economic Crimes and Terrorism)’s inability to provide for a fair trial due to its lack of independence from the government.

“On April 4, CRIET tried Komi Koutche in absentia, found him guilty of embezzlement of public funds and abuse of office while head of the National Fund for Microcredit, and sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment. Koutche remained in self-imposed exile at year’s end.”

The International Criminal Police Organisation at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, Benin Republic, arrested Igboho and his wife, Ropo, on Monday night while trying to catch a flight to Germany.

Igboho had been declared wanted by the Department of State Services in Nigeria after his house was raided on July 1, 2021. At least 12 of his associates were arrested while two others were killed by the DSS during the bloody raid. The secret police accused Igboho of stockpiling arms to destabilise Nigeria under the pretext of Yoruba Nation agitation but Igboho denied the allegation. The activist, who went underground, was, however, apprehended by Interpol at the Cadjèhoun Airport on Monday night.


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It was gathered that the Nigerian government through its Ambassador to the Benin Republic, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), was instrumental to the arrest of Igboho and his wife. The former Chief of Army Staff has also been pushing for the extradition of Igboho to Abuja but Igboho’s lawyer, Yomi Aliyyu (SAN), noted that his client cannot be extradited because the 1984 Extradition Treaty between Nigeria, Benin and two others excluded political refugees like Igboho.

Aliyyu, who also argued that Igboho’s wife is a German citizen while her husband is a German resident, therefore called on the German Embassy in Benin Republic to intervene in the matter and stop the extradition of his client and his wife.

The lawyer further lamented the harsh treatment of his client and his wife in a detention facility in Benin Republic.

According to the US report, the Beninese Armed Forces under the Ministry of Defense are responsible for external security and support the Republican Police in maintaining internal security in the country with about 12 million population. The report stated that members of the security forces committed some human rights abuses which included “unlawful or arbitrary killings, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions,” amongst others.

“Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate medical care, food, and sanitary conditions. The 11 facilities held approximately 9,000 inmates, significantly exceeding a capacity of 5,620 inmates…There were deaths due to lack of medical care, neglect, and poor ventilation in cramped and overcrowded cells,” the report added.


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