LAWYERS representing Yoruba Nation agitator Sunday Adeyemo have stepped up legal activity in Cotonou amid signs that the Republic of Benin may bow to incessant Nigerian pressure and extradite their client.
On July 1, Mr Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, fled after his Ibadan home was raided by security forces who killed two of his aides and arrested a further 13. Mr Igboho subsequently turned up in Benin Republic but was arrested at Cotonou airport while he was trying to board a plane to Germany.
Over the last week, the matter has been in court as the Beninoise authorities have charged Mr Igboho with several immigration offences but the Nigerian government wants him deported. With Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin Republic, former chief of army staff General Tukur Buratai, stepping up the pressure on the government, it is feared that the government there may buckle to avoid a diplomatic spat.
Sources in Cotonou believe that Benin Republic is not ready to engage in a diplomatic crisis with Nigeria, so succumb to pressure and hand Mr Igboho over. However, Mr Igboho’s lawyers have kicked against the move, saying that it was against international law.
One source, who works with Benin’s Interpol National Central Bureau, said that the charges against Mr Igboho were punishable by deportation, fines, or imprisonment. He added that the Beninoise government, however, does not want to get involved by jailing Mr Igboho.
“Yes, he was detained for fresh charges. While he was initially in the Brigade Criminelle facility, he made useful confessions and his lawyers also know that he is guilty of irregular migration,” the source added.
Another official added: “The least punishment Igboho can be given is to be deported to the country he came from if found guilty. The Nigerian authorities can take over from there if they wish.”
However, Mr Igboho’s lawyers have warned Benin Republic against deporting the activist, stating that was dangerous and against international law. One said he was aware that Nigeria is putting pressure on Benin Republic through the backdoor to deport Mr Igboho at a time that will only be known between the security operatives of the two countries.
Pelumi Olajengbesi, Mr Igboho’s Nigerian-based lawyer. added: “I am aware that the federal government through the former chief of army staff Tukur Buratai is making efforts to get him deported. However, so far, the facts available before the court have nothing to do with the Nigerian government.
“We have nothing to worry about because the Benin Republic government has shown that it will operate within the precinct of the law. For us, we believe that Igboho is a criminal of conscience who has taken an effort to liberate his people.”
Also, Olasupo Ojo, Mr Igboho’s coordinating counsel warned that deporting him for Nigeria to arrest him was against international law. He added: “It is illegal under international law to send back somebody who escaped to save his life.
“You cannot send him to a country where there is ample evidence that his life is at stake and endangered. It will bounce back heavily on Benin Republic if they do that.”