THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI recently released a list of 77 Nigerians resident in the U.S. that it had indicted for cyber fraud. The Bureau indicated also that investigations are continuing and that the possibility that there may be here in Nigeria is not foreclosed. And it was cheering to hear one of President Buhari’s Media Aides, my friend and colleague Garba Shehu, on national television pledging Nigeria’s cooperate with the United States including, whenever necessary, to extradite any of her nationals implicated in this new but fast spreading species of international crime called ‘cyber fraud’. And ‘why not?’ If Nigeria cannot take care of her home-grown thieving rodents which she now exports abroad, she must not be niggardly with the charity of her cooperation to nip in the bud, the existential threat posed at home and abroad to unsuspecting transactors by this lazy, avidly greedy strain of criminals skilled electronically at stealing others’ hard-earned purses and coming home with the flashy, peacock flamboyance of celebrated nouveau riches to throw their filthy lucre at clubs and in the hallowed houses of worship –and which they do often in a most despicably profligate manner that taunts society, offends her morality and then instigate the youths to a form of wealth-seeking that draws no line between the lawful and the criminal or the permissible and the sinful.
And just as I was weighing the possibility of doing a piece on the extradition relationship between Nigeria and the United States, another friend and colleague of mine, Gbenga Oni-Olusola somewhere on his Face-Book Wall, was wondering why America –with whom Nigeria enjoys an excellent entente cordiale- should not be helping her extradite her lone, irritable fugitive currently hibernating in that country, namely Nnamdi Kanu –leader of the outlawed terrorist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB? And to which I also wondered ‘why not?’ Especially considering the fact that ‘extradition’ in international law –not being regulated by a United Nations instrument- is supposed to be a mutually-beneficial treaty of reciprocity between and among nations to bring their fugitives to justice who have either committed grave offences under their national laws or who may have committed any of the offences listed under the Geneva Convention which are of serious concern to the international community, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and the crimes of aggression. Thus generally given the principle of sovereign equality of states, no country is obligated to surrender especially her nationals to another state, –except such obligation by which it has freely bound itself under an extradition treaty, subject to the principle of pacta sunt servanda – enforcing the sanctity of ‘international agreements’. And it is the absence of a universal instrument commanding a duty of cooperation with extradition requests that has caused a wave of mutually beneficial treaties signed bilaterally or multi-laterally between and among nations. Reason it is defined as a ‘cooperative law enforcement practice’ regulated by treaties of ‘reciprocity’.
Extradition is not a gratuity. It is ‘give-and-take’. Yet it can be marred by the self-aggrandizement of one or the mutually-grandstanding of two signatories to an existing treaty. Nations bear a duty of cooperation with the extradition requests of countries with whom they have covenanted to exchange fugitives (so they do not do unto those that which they would not want those to do unto them). But they also enjoy the right to renege on their treaty obligations in deference again to their right under the principle of reciprocity (so that they may ‘do unto those that which those have done unto them). Because the morale is clear under treaties of extradition that no country’s fugitive is more irritable or extraditable than another’s. Your fugitive hiding in our country is no more extraditable than ours hiding in yours. The presumption being that they have both violated national or international laws. Yet our fugitive becomes even more justifiably extraditable if from the sanctuary you have provided him, he persists in his treasonable and seditious acts against our country. Or why should we extradite to you a national of ours who has merely stolen from a numerable number of your citizens when you will not extradite to us our national who, from the comfort of your sanctuary, continues to endanger the peace and security of an entire nation? It may be ab-normal in social relationships to trade ‘a Roland for an Oliver’, but in international law and especially under treaties of extradition, trading ‘Rolands for Olivers’ is the veritable norm.
Unfortunately, the history of Nigeria-U.S. extradition relations does not reveal a mutually beneficial journey of ‘give-and-take’ or even a rebuffing odyssey of mutual non-cooperation. Rather it reveals a non-reciprocal, self-denigrating, one-sided posture whereby Nigeria has always been the one falling head-over-heels to extend to the United States gratuitous extradition ‘rights’ and privileges. Nigeria-U.S. extradition relationship dates back eighty years ago with the signing in December 22, 1931 of an extradition treaty which would enter into force four years later in June 24, 1935. And since then it is said that Nigeria has extradited countless number of fugitives –both Nigerians and Americans- to the United States for offences ranging from drug, advance fee fraud and terrorism. Most recent of these was in August 28, 2013 by a court-ordered extradition to the U.S. of one Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi for providing support to al-Qaida in the recruitment of members. Plus Nigeria has been falling head over heels in the last few years hoping to ingratiate America with the planned extradition of Buriji Kashamu, a Nigerian Senator from the South West accused of drug-dealing -even as it is alleged that there was no official request to that effect by the United States. And now even before the United States communicates a formal request to Nigeria for the extradition, ironically, of yet-to-be-determined cyber crime accomplices to the indicted 77, we are proudly offering to extradite.
In fairness to the United Kingdom, U.K. she had once, in 1962 extradited to Nigeria a political fugitive, Anthony Enahoro under the ‘Commonwealth Transfer of Offenders Law, so that he be tried in Lagos for treasonable felony and conspiracy to effect an unlawful purpose against the Balewa Government. But there is hardly any record indicating that Nigeria has ever demanded or requested any extradition rights or privileges from the United States; as there is hardly any too indicating that the United States herself, in the spirit of bilateral reciprocity, has ever respected Nigeria enough to willfully –even if haughtily and benevolently- offer to her such rights or privileges. We have continued to give and give to America extradition gratuity that America has never ever reciprocated. On the contrary –even if with a bit of ironic arrogance- the U.S. State Department in 2009 had the ungrateful nerve to describe Nigeria’s extradition practice and procedure as constituting obstacle to U.S. anti-crime efforts. The Report claimed that the U.S. has several extradition requests un-acceded to by Nigeria for years, even though it did not admit the many such requests that Nigeria had granted or may have even offered without the precondition of an official request. Nor has the Report mentioned a single case in which Nigeria has ever benefited from the 80-year old extradition treaty relationship with the U.S.
Nnamdi Kanu shuttles mostly between the United Kingdom and the United States. For all intents and purposes, he is no less eminently extraditable in 2019 than Anthony Enahoro was 58 years ago. They are both guilty of treasonable felony and conspiracy to effect an unlawful purpose against the Government of their country. If we cannot dare to shelter an American or a British citizen who attempted –other than by the constitution- to bring about a violent change of government in his country, or worse even dare to allow them the liberty to use our territory persist in their felonious and seditious acts, why must U.K. and U.S. be entitled to that privilege? Even as unaffected as they were by the iniquities of Liberia’s Charles Tailor, these same so called friends of Nigeria would not allow Obasanjo keep for long an ousted brother head of an African state even though Nigeria’s eminent peace-keeping efforts in bringing a closure to Liberia’s civil war entitled her to that brotherly role. Between the U.S., U.K. and Nigeria there are enough enabling treaty laws and or bilateral and multi-lateral agreements to extradite Kanu to Nigeria. We have always proved our fidelity to the entente cordiale that binds us with the United States and the United Kingdom. They now have an excellent opportunity to prove their fidelity too. Let them give us just this one secessionist-terrorist, Kanu, and we’ll give them a thousand cyber fraudsters. Fair?
To be continued