As the media boils with news of extradition and likely diplomatic friction over the arrest and trial of the wanted separatist Sunday Adeyemo Igboho in Benin Republic, Nigeria is ready to swing its clout.
It’s either Benin returns Igboho, or draws the ire of Nigeria, the Nation reported sources within the ministries of justice and foreign affairs as saying.
And the federal government has communicated this position to the Benin Republic as Igboho faces extradition hearing, apart from his trial for alleged fake Benin travel documents the agitator used to catch a flight to Germany July 19.
Nigeria has already presented its evidence to the Beninese court in preparation for the extradition hearing.
According to the newspaper, the pieces of evidence Nigeria already presented include.
The reasons that Nigeria sent to the Benin Republic are as follows:
- Evidence of secessionist agitation by Igboho. He made the secessionist declaration and organised rallies.
- Engagement in violent activities by arrogating the powers of a law enforcement agency to himself.
- Establishment of a militia group that caused the death of some innocent citizens.
- Gun running as discovered by the DSS in his house.
- Both the Nigeria Police Force and the DSS have declared him wanted in respect of some criminal allegations.
- Refusal to obey summons by Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies only for him to escape to the Benin Republic to hide.
- Igboho’s activities are inimical to the mandate of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
The sources confirmed Nigeria and Benin tried to keep Germany out of it, the reason Igboho’s wife Ropo, a German, was released from detention.
“The battle is now about the criminal conspiracy against Igboho.”
If Benin fails to release Igboho for trial, the Nigerian government would go into a diplomatic showdown.
“Our position is that the Benin Republic stands to lose a lot if Igboho is not extradited to Nigeria.
“In diplomatic relations, the interest of a state is higher than that of an individual. There are many bilateral issues Nigeria and the Republic of Benin have been trying to resolve in the last year and no individual should create a setback.
“If the Republic of Benin allows a criminal waiver for Igboho, the diplomatic consequences are weighty. We will draw the line.
“Apart from a likely diplomatic Cold War, Nigeria will not reopen its borders with the Republic of Benin which had been shut for months. We don’t mind a tit-for-tat. We have done it before, we can do so now.”
The government source, who is involved in the coordination of diplomatic talks to extradite Igboho, said: “We had a robust antecedent of this type of Igboho scenario between Nigeria and the Benin Republic 18 years ago. In 2003, a notorious trans-border criminal from the Niger Republic, Hammani Tijjani, went to hide in the Benin Republic.
“Tijjani was believed to have been responsible for the attack on the first daughter of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ms Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello.
“The threats from Obasanjo made the Benin Republic to hand over Tijjani to Nigeria for justice. He was tried and bagged a 10-year jail term.
“When the Benin Republic was not forthcoming on Tijjani, Nigeria closed its borders until ex-President Mathew Kerekou buckled under.
“Benin Republic is a member of the MNJTF in the Lake Chad region with a mandate to ‘deal with cross-border security issues’.
“Other MNJTF nations are Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and the Niger Republic. We have asked the Benin Republic to respect the mandate of this organisation in the interest of peace in the region.
“As it is now, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Benin Republic, Gen. Yusuf Buratai is a former Commander of MNJTF. He has sufficient knowledge on this.”
Igboho lawyers have been defending him in the media. While they initially flaunted Benin’s human rights credentials–though Igboho has been in handcuffs in detention–they are now admitting returning him is not impossible–on diplomatic grounds.
The trial resumes July 26 in a Beninese court of appeal.