THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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They say that the French were the first to coin the term ‘valise diplomatique’, -or the ‘diplomatic bag’. But if they must use an alternative to ‘bag’, the English have always preferred ‘pouch’ to the frenchie ‘valise’. And so the ‘diplomatic pouch’ over time has come to be about the most controversial of those three most sacred and inviolable subjects or items of international diplomacy; the other two being the ‘diplomatic agent’ himself and the ‘diplomatic premises’.
I have opted for the title ‘Diezani’s ‘Valise Diplomatique’ not because the ‘diplomatic pouch’ will be the subject of discourse –on the contrary it is the ‘diplomatic agent’ that will be- but I have taken that liberty only because each of these three ‘inviolables’ law ring with equal notoriety in the usual controversy that often dog the heels of this area of international relations, namely ‘Diplomatic and Consular law’ -for the reason that it immunizes a select group of persons, places or pouches from arrest, detention and prosecution.
In the last over four years since a self-exiled Diezani elevated her corruption case to a subject of international law by becoming a fugitive, virtually only one aspect of Diplomatic and Consular law, namely the subject of treaty-governed extradition, was at the heart of the discourse –navigating through the hyacinth of bilateral and multilateral treaties to figure how or how not to extradite her. But now it appears, the queen of ‘Sweet Crude’ has managed to expose her case to the vagaries of diplomatic immunities and or privileges –making the possibility of her extradition even more complex and well-nigh impossible
Why would a self-exiled Diezani, while a fugitive of the Nigerian justice system and hiding in the United Kingdom, seek appointment as Commissioner for Trade and Investment of a tiny, Caribbean island nation of Dominica? (no relation of the Dominican Republic). And why would that poor country’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit selectively hand her a diplomatic passport which immunizes herself and members of her immediate family, not only from ‘all’ criminal prosecutions but also from ‘most’ civil law suits except they bordering on her private business dealings with other private individuals?
If Diezani was such an experienced authority in the areas of ‘trade and investment’ (which we have no reason to believe she is), and if Dominica desperately required her expertise or her influence, you would wonder again why can she not play that role professionally and maybe even better without necessarily the armor-plating of a combination of diplomatic immunity and privileges which usually only ‘diplomatic agents’ and especially heads of state are afforded under the ‘functional necessity theory’ guaranteed for the efficient conduct of international relations?
In fact very rarely are even heads of the Consular section of an embassy who daily run the cultural affairs of a state in a foreign country, are accorded full diplomatic immunity and privileges. Nor are other categories of sparsely -or even if regularly- traveled high ranking officials of a government such as Ministers, legislators, military personnel e.t.c, granted diplomatic passports. Not because it is supra-dignitatem to their status, but because neither the ‘functional necessity’ principle justifies their having it, nor does even the ‘extra-territoriality’ principle (which affects only agents and consular officials on permanent mission) cover high ranking officials of government who are not on permanent mission abroad.
And it is the reason that these categories of high ranking government officials –and to which Deziani as Dominica’s Minister, belongs- are usually only issued ‘non-diplomatic’ passports under various classes such as ‘official passports’ or ‘service passports’. And which therefore raises the question: ‘to what end or purpose would a Nigerian fugitive hiding in London, and now made a ‘Minister at large’ for a puny indigent North American country, require a ‘diplomatic passport’ to perform her duties as that country’s Minister of Trade and Investment when her briefs require at the most an ‘official’ passport. And which is not to wonder also, why –rather than from Dominica’s capital of Roseau- she has to operate in the Diaspora, and from an anonymous address in London.
But again, for a woman who left Nigeria critically ill and ostensibly in search of cure for a ‘curiously-conniving ‘cancer’ disease that manifested only after the Jonathan bonanza was over, you still wonder why only such a one -preoccupied with the debilitation of a malignant health situation- should conduct the trade and investment affairs of Dominica, -as if the prognosis of a witch doctor had found only in this queer kind of appointment the fetish to grow and develop the Dominican economy? But no; this is just some kind of criminal quid pro quo between a filthy-rich former Nigeria’s petroleum minister who had stolen so much she needs a permissive safe heaven where to peacefully nibble at the plunder for the remainder of her life, and a supper poor, conscienceless Caribbean country, Dominica, ready to bite only because the bait is tempting enough.
The whole damn deal is the use of proceeds of corruption to purchase a diplomatic status that comes with full options for immunities and privileges with a view to evading arrest, detention or prosecution for any criminal act –provided Diezani neither poses threat to the peace and security of the UK nor of Dominica itself. Diezani’s appointment as Minister of Trade and Investment to Dominica, and the extension to her of full diplomatic immunities and privileges clearly manifest the hydra headed nature of the monster of corruption and its ability to effectively fight back within the realms of both municipal and international laws. And the question now arises: ‘how does Nigeria or even the UK bring a lawfully protected subject of international law like Diezani without first following the rigors of the law to strip her of her lawfully-acquired immunity and privilege.
No matter how much you dislike her, you must give it to this lady of beauty and brains, Diezani. She has indeed pulled a masterstroke! And like the smooth-rolling, carapace-padded armadillo, she has rolled herself into a ball of impenetrable, self-protecting armor. You have to figure out how to find the chink, in her diplomatic armor. And yes, immunity is waivable, but only by the country that confers it in the first place –which in this case is Dominica. But how do you imagine poor Dominica letting go off Diezani’s superfluous honey pot when not doing so breaches neither law nor international morality?
Dominica has to waive Diezanis’s immunity first before the United Kingdom may defer to any request by Nigeria for the arrest, detention, prosecution or extradition of Diezani. And yes, although both Nigeria and Dominica are Commonwealth countries and therefore subject to the Commonwealth ‘Transfer of Offenders Law’, yet the snag is that whereas the extradition cobwebs may be cleared under such multilateral laws, to create a window for possible extradition, Diezani’s new masterstroke in assuming diplomatic immunity which makes her person now as ‘diplomatic agent’ practically inviolable, has now created a totally un-navigable hyacinth in the effort to make her amenable to Nigeria’s laws, the UK’s, or even international law.
In fact as far as the Vienna Convention is concerned, (which regulates consular and diplomatic matters), if a gun-toting Diezani were to run amok on the streets of London shooting and killing everyone in sight, she should still be no less immune from arrest, detention or prosecution.