One of the counsel for self styled ‘Yoruba War-lord” Sunday Igboho, Pelumi Olajengbesi, has said there are efforts by the Nigerian government particularly through the former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai to get Igboho repatriated to Nigeria at all cost.
He, however, said this has been hindered so far by the government of the Benin Republic which follows the dictates of the law to the letter.
Olajengbesi noted that Buratai had already organised a private jet the night Igboho was arrested to immediately convey Igboho to Nigeria.
He also said the Nigerian government and the secret police, Department of State Services (DSS) would have to account for the illegal raid on the house of his client as he observed that the attack on Igboho’s Ibadan residence was not an attempt to arrest Igboho but to take his life.
Speaking to Sunday PUNCH, he said, “What transpired was that Igboho wanted to leave the country to a place where he would be very safe. He was arrested and taken into custody.
“The Nigerian government has been making efforts, particularly the Nigerian Ambassador over there, who is a former Chief of Army Staff – Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.) – they have been making several efforts to get him back into the country but the Benin Republic operates by law and they are ensuring that they do everything within the ambit of the law.
“We know for a fact that the Nigerian government declared him wanted and the Nigerian government reached out to all neighbouring states and border countries to ensure that Chief Sunday Igboho is hunted and that was exactly what happened.
“Buratai’s disposition is very clear and it is to get Chief Sunday Igboho arrested and return him to the country. I don’t want to specifically talk about things, which facts are not available to me, but we were informed that he placed calls and made efforts to ensure that my client was repatriated without following the rule of law but the Benin Republic declined the request and insisted that everything must be done within the precinct of the law.
“The information we had was that the former Chief of Army Staff had organised a private jet already on standby that same night to immediately convey Chief Sunday Igboho to Nigeria. He thought Chief Sunday Igboho is his property but then with the stance of the Benin Republic and the agitation of people all over the world, he couldn’t achieve that. Now, they (the Nigerian government) are at the mercy of the law that they ran away from.
“For you to know that the Federal Government of Nigeria was only trying to do things in a fire-brigade approach, the Federal Government could not even bring up any major charge against our client before the court sitting in the Benin Republic and so the matter had to be adjourned till next week. We are expecting that the Federal Government would come up with whatever its issues with Chief Sunday Igboho are and why the government wants him extradited by all means.”
He added: “Before the raid, there was no single invitation from the DSS, be it by phone or by letter, inviting Chief Sunday Igboho. If he was invited under the law, he would have honoured the invitation but he was never invited. I do not think the intention of the DSS was to arrest Chief Sunday Igboho; the intention was to take him out because the event that took place before his house was invaded was not democratic, it was not normal.
“There is nowhere in the world where security agents raid in such a manner and have the audacity to say that two people were killed in the process. This government, particularly the leadership of the DSS, would have to account for these things.
“There was an attempt to harm him and in his own wisdom, he felt the best way for him was to seek refuge. What was his crime? He demanded that there should be protection for the Yoruba people against some criminal Fulani herdsmen who were killing people.
“The entire Fulani people can’t be said to be criminals but there are some set of people who are killing other people on their farms. He (Igboho) complained about it when the killing was becoming too much, kidnapping was becoming a profession and he wanted the Nigerian government to address it but the Nigerian government refused.
“And he said if the Nigerian government could not protect the Yoruba people in their land, the Yoruba people should have their own nation. He started the campaign for self-determination and then the government invaded his house, destroyed his property, and declared him wanted.
“They wanted to take him down during the raid on his house but by the grace of God, he was able to leave the place and find refuge elsewhere. It is not wrong for any prisoner of conscience, for any political prisoner to take refuge anywhere in the world. It is the international standard.”
He also explained that, at the moment, no charges have been levelled against Igboho stressing that the case is still at the investigation stage.
Olajengbesi also said he was confident that Igboho would get justice and that lawyers are working towards ensuring he doesn’t get extradited to Nigeria.
He said, “The system of law in Benin Republic is quite different from the system of law in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we practise an adversarial system of justice but in Benin Republic what they have is an inquisitorial system, a justice system in which the judge delves into the matter to enquire. The judge is like the investigator, asking questions from the suspects and all of that. That is the stage we are now at Benin Republic.
“A charge has not been preferred against him (Igboho). The court is at the level of the judge making an inquiry as to interviewing Chief Sunday Igboho in the open court for him to respond to some of the issues surrounding his arrest and all of that. Perhaps, from next week, there would be serious issues in court and we can have a direction on the matter.
“There are prominent lawyers in Benin Republic on our legal team and we are confident that we will get justice. It is not just about the lawyers but about the rule of law, the circumstances, and the facts surrounding the issue. So, I know for a fact that Chief Sunday Igboho will get justice in Nigeria and in Benin Republic, it is just a matter of time.
“The process of justice is not a one-day affair. I know Benin Republic has a judicial system that is open to appeal and at any point, justice would be addressed, it is only a matter of time. Even if he is repatriated to Nigeria, he would still get justice but our demand is that he should not be extradited.
“We are also hopeful that he would be granted asylum in Benin Republic. Chief Igboho is alleged to have committed an offence that is politically related and he is wanted for political reasons, because the Nigerian government wants to suppress and oppress him but Nigeria is not a Banana Republic.”