Lagos lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) has explained that the planned extradition of senator-elect of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Buruji Kashamu to the United States (U.S.) is in accordant with the rule of law and in line with the provisions of the Extradition Act.
In a statement in Lagos yesterday, titled: “Legal Implications of Kashamu’s extradition”, Falana advised the senator-elect to surrender himself for trial in the U.S. instead of embarking on a prolonged legal battle in Nigeria.
The learned silk, who contended that the fundamental right of Kashamu to personal liberty has not been violated in any way so far, added: “But if he insists on his innocence, let the law take its course through the extradition proceedings”.
The statement reads in part: “The Extradition Treaty between Nigeria and the U.S. was signed on June 24, 1935 while it entered into force on June 24, 1935. The treaty was signed with the U.S. by the British colonial regime, which then exercised dominion over the territory of Nigeria.
“When Nigeria obtained political independence from the Britannic Majesty in 1960, the treaty was, like several others, adopted by the Federal Government. By virtue of Article 3 of the treaty, extradition shall be reciprocally granted for crimes or offences such as murder, manslaughter, administering drugs or using instruments with intent to procure the miscarriage of women, rape, threats, by letter or otherwise, with intent to extort money or other things of value, larceny or embezzlement, fraud or fraudulent conversion, obtaining money, valuable security, or goods, by false pretences, crimes or offences or attempted crimes or offences in connection with the traffic in dangerous drugs.
“Under the treaty, extradition shall not take place if the person claimed he has already been tried and discharged or punished, or is still under trial in the territories of the High Contracting Party applied to, for the crime or offence for which his extradition is demanded.
“If the person claimed should be under examination or under punishment in the territories of the High Contracting Party applied to for any other crime or offence, his extradition shall be deferred until the conclusion of the trial and the full execution of any punishment awarded to him. Even though the treaty is silent on civil proceedings challenging the legal validity of the extradition of any person the exercise may be stayed or suspended if there is a court order to that effect.
“By virtue of the Extradition Act Cap E25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Attorney-General or a court shall not surrender a fugitive criminal, if satisfied that the offence in respect of which his surrender is sought is an offence of a political character or that the request for surrender, although purporting to be made in respect of an extradition crime, was in fact made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing him on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions or was otherwise not made in good faith or in the interests of justice; or that, if surrendered, he is likely to be prejudiced at his trial, or to be punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty, by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions,” he noted.
Falana explained that in the case of Kashamu, the order of the Federal High Court that he should not be extradited has been set aside by the Court of Appeal.
“Although the appeal filed against the decision is pending at the Supreme Court, there is no order of execution or interlocutory injunction restraining the Federal Government from extraditing Chief Kashamu to the U.S. to stand trial for drug trafficking. Hence, the PDP chieftain and senator-elect has initiated a fresh suit at the Federal High Court to thwart any move to extradite him to the United States!
“As the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN has not been legally prohibited on the matter he is reported to have concluded arrangements to commence extradition proceedings on the basis of a request made by the United States pursuant to the Extradition Treaty.”
He noted that before Kashamu parted ways with President Olusegun Obasanjo in the PDP and before the appointment of Mrs. Roli George as the director-general of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the senator-elect had been on the wanted list of the United States for drug related offences.
“Therefore, the allegation that Chief Obasanjo and Chief Olabode George are behind the ongoing moves to extradite the senator-elect is illogical, spurious and diversionary,” the Lagos lawyer said.
Falana advised that instead of politicising the planned extradition proceedings, Kashamu should be prepared for the legal battle ahead, adding: “He is lucky that he is detained in his own house. But for his status as a member of the ruling class, Chief Kashamu would have been bundled to the NDLEA detention facility in Lagos, where he would have been denied access to his phone.”
He added that the decent treatment being accorded the PDP chieftain was part of the intangible dividends of democracy.
Only the rich are detained in their homes as the concept of “house arrest” is unknown to our criminal justice system, Falana said.
He noted that under the military rule, the embattled PDP leader would have been arrested, handcuffed and handed to American security officials.
According to the rights activist, “He would have been further manacled and flown to the United States for trial. At the material time, extradition proceedings were not conducted in any court.”