Republic of Benin has resisted Nigeria’s attempts to hastily extradite Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, to the headquarters of the Department of State Services in Abuja.
Federal Government planned to extradite the activist on Wednesday (yesterday), but Benin Republic insisted that it would not be part of any process that was against due process.
A security source in the West African country, who spoke to our correspondent, said, “The Nigerian government planned to extradite him on Wednesday, but our government said the rule of law must be followed as the world is watching us.”
One of the lawyers of Igboho, Pelumi Olajengbesi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said Benin Republic had shown itself to be a country that respects the rule of law and due process.
The lawyer said Igboho’s legal team in Benin Republic were in talks with the Beninise government.
Benin insists on repatriation hearing to determine whether Igboho is guilty or not – Lawyer
He noted that despite pressure from the Nigerian government, the government of Benin had insisted on following due process including a repatriation hearing to determine whether or not Igboho was guilty as accused by the Nigerian secret police.
DSS raided Igboho’s residence in the Soka area of Ibadan on July 1, 2021, arrested at least 12 of his associates and killed two others during the bloody raid.
Igboho escaped the raid and the secret police subsequently declared him wanted for allegedly stockpiling arms to destabilise Nigeria under the pretext of the Yoruba nation agitation, but Igboho denied the allegation.
The activist, who went underground, was, however, apprehended by Interpol at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, Benin Republic Monday night.
Igboho and his wife, Ropo, were arrested while trying to catch a flight to Germany.
A source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said, “The Nigerian government has made attempts to get him (Igboho) but Benin Republic didn’t release him. The Nigerian government has asked him but the Beninise government has not released him because the latter has not even identified him as a Nigerian. The only instrument they can use to identify him as a Nigerian is the passport but that is not what was found with him.
“The Nigerian government is still quiet two days after the arrest because it does not have control over the situation. There is a procedure that the law establishes including a repatriation hearing to determine whether the person in question has committed the offence and why he or she should be repatriated or not.”
I told Igboho to stay away day Benin police searched my house – Associate
Meanwhile, a long-time associate of Igboho has narrated how he told the activist to stop visiting his residence in Cotonou, Benin Republic, the day policemen came to survey his house.
The activist’s associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the nature of the matter, said before Igboho’s ordeal with the Nigerian government began in January 2021, the activist usually lodged in his house each time he came to Benin Republic.
However, the source said he told the activist not to visit his place when the police in Benin Republic came to survey his house earlier in the year.
Recall that presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, had said in January that the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had ordered the arrest of Igboho, who rose to prominence when he issued and enforced an ultimatum to ‘killer herders’ in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State.
The source said everything happened so fast and the Nigerian government had been on the lookout for Igboho long ago. He also said the Nigerian government had written the government of Benin Republic to hunt Igboho.
The source said, “Before now, whenever Sunday wanted to come to Benin Republic, I was always aware. He would call me on the phone that he was coming. But since policemen came to my house to check my house, I told Sunday that ‘please you can’t stay here any longer’. May be because of that Sunday didn’t inform me.
“On Monday, I heard Sunday was at the airport. I tried to call him that he was not supposed to be at the airport because Nigeria already wrote a letter to Interpol.
“Immediately, I tried to call someone at the airport to tell him to leave the place, five minutes later, I was notified by my sources in the criminal police that they arrested one Nigerian. I asked what the name was and my source told me; Sunday Adeyemo. I shouted. I asked why they did that and they said it was an order from above.”
Igboho’s lawyers in Benin write German govt, seek Berlin’s help in stopping extradition
Meanwhile, the Beninese lawyers representing Igboho have sought the intervention of the German government to halt the planned extradition of the Yoruba nation activist.
This, it was gathered, was meant to put diplomatic pressure on Cotonou and foil the moves by the Federal Government to influence the Beninese government.
A member of Igboho’s legal team, Olajengbesi, disclosed this to one of our correspondents on Wednesday.
He said Yoruba activist’s lawyers in Nigeria would also dispatch a similar letter to the German Embassy in Abuja on Thursday (today).
He stated, “We have written to the German government to intervene and stop the illegal extradition of Igboho and we are expecting a due response from the German government. The wife is German and that made it convenient for us.
“The lawyers in Benin have formally written to the German government and so we expect them to intervene. We (Igboho’s lawyers in Nigeria) have not written to the German embassy in Nigeria because it is a public holiday but by tomorrow (today), steps will be taken in that regard.”
Olajengbesi said the Beninese government would not succumb to pressure from the Federal Government to extradite Igboho to Nigeria, noting that “Benin Republic has a certain level of decency in terms of respect for the rule of law which is encouraging.”
He attributed the reported maltreatment of Igboho by security agencies in Benin to letters allegedly written by Buratai, who asked the government to arrest Igboho whom he accused of being a hardened criminal.
The lawyer added, “The government is treating Igboho like a criminal because of the letters written by retired Tukur Buratai to the government in Benin describing Igboho as a hardcore criminal.
“We have communicated to the government in Benin that he is not a criminal but an advocate for justice in Nigeria and so, he must be given such due.”
FG keeps mum
Efforts to get an official response on Igboho’s issue from the Federal Government were not successful on Wednesday.
Calls to the mobile telephone number of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had yet to be picked nor returned as of the time of sending this report.
Similar calls to the mobile telephone number of the Spokesman for the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Umaru Gwandu, were neither picked nor returned.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to appoint an official spokesman after the last one went on foreign posting about a month ago.
Igboho’s supporters protest in Ibadan, Cotonou, London
Meanwhile, there were protests on Wednesday in Ibadan, Cotonou and London against Igboho’s arrest.
In Ibadan, armed policemen dispersed his supporters who protested in the city.
The protesters marched through the road leading to Soka area to the Soka bus stop along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway where they sang and demanded the release of Igboho.
The protesters were bearing placards with various inscriptions.
A street hawker at the Soka bus stop told one of our correspondents that Igboho supporters said the Federal Government should not kill Igboho the way the winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Moshood Abiola, was allegedly killed.
The hawker said the protest grounded traffic in the area and some motorists had to take alternative routes.
A resident of the area, Musbau Ogunbiyi, said the protest started at about 1:50pm.
He said, “The policemen came in about four patrol vans and a car. They shot in the air and chased away the protesters.”
But another resident, Taye Adeoti, said the protesters marched towards the Challenge area after spending some minutes at the bus stop.
One of our correspondents observed that the armed police had taken over the place around 3:30pm when he arrived there.
In Cotonou, Republic of Benin, some Yoruba people in the city stormed the country’s court where it was believed the extradition hearing of Igboho would hold.
The protesters were seen singing solidarity songs and demanding freedom for Igboho in a video on the Facebook page of Olayomi Koiki, Igboho’s media aide.
The agitators also demanded an independent nation of Yoruba people, saying they had confidence in Benin Republic justice system.
In the two-minute video, an unnamed speaker told supporters of the activist to be calm, saying that “Igboho is alright, but has not gone to Germany” as being speculated.
“We are in Cotonou at the moment where the extradition case of Sunday Igboho will hold. Baba is fine, but the case has not been decided,” the speaker who spoke in Yoruba said.
Also, the Yoruba nation protesters in London stormed the British parliament to protest against the arrest of the activist.
In a live video by Heritage media on Facebook monitored by The PUNCH, protesters were seen with the Yoruba nation flag, placards and branded T-shirts with inscriptions such as #Leave Our freedom fighters alone, stop extrajudicial killings in southern Nigeria, Free Sunday Igboho, I stand with Sunday Igboho.
An unnamed speaker urged the supporters of the activist to be calm, saying “Igboho has not gone back to Germany as has been speculated. He is still in Cotonou.
“We are calling on the regime of Muhammadu Buhari to leave our freedom fighters alone. We are tired of the killings in Yorubaland. Enough is enough.”
Igboho won’t get justice if extradited to Nigeria, says Okei-Odumakin
President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, Joe Okei-Odumakin, in her reaction, expressed fear that the activist would not get justice if extradited to Nigeria.
She noted that his wellbeing was also under threat because “It is not debatable that Igboho will come to grief if he is extradited to Nigeria under the prevailing circumstances.”
Okei-Odumakin said this on Wednesday in a statement titled, “On Igboho’s arrest.”
MASSOB warns FG, says no harm must befall Igboho, Kanu
On its part, Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra condemned the arrest of the agitator.
The pro-Biafra group, in a statement on Wednesday by its National Director of Information, Edeson Samuel, said the arrest of agitators without addressing the cause of agitations was a ploy of Buhari’s regime to “intimidate the southern part of this political entity called Nigeria.”
It noted that a government that could not arrest leaders of herdsmen, bandits, and Boko Haram, who were terrorising the country especially in Northern Nigeria, was using all its strength against freedom agitators in the South.
The group stated, “MASSOB has already warned Muhammadu Buhari- led All Progressives Congress that nothing should happen to Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. Nigerian security has failed to arrest leaders of herdsmen, bandits, and Boko Haram in the North, but using all its strength against freedom agitators in the South.
“Kidnapping is going on everyday in Kaduna, Zamfara and other states in the North, but these Fulani foot soldiers cannot do anything because they are working together.
“It is very clear now to the entire world that the Federal Government of Nigeria led by General Muhammadu Buhari is pampering terrorists known as killer herders and sending its security agents against non-violent self-determination groups because of the hatred it has for the South and the Middle Belt.
“MASSOB still maintains its stand that no harm should befall Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu and other freedom agitators held in the DSS and police custody.”