The position of the Federal Government on the embattled Yoruba nation agitator, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (aka Sunday Igboho), is laughable if the law of the land is anything to go by.
Speaking on a television programme last month, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said there was no political solution to Igboho’s travails. He stressed that Adeyemo, who has been incarcerated in Cotonou, Benin Republic, since July 19, 2021, without any charge, would be prosecuted on his return to Nigeria.
His declaration came at a time the neighbouring country extended Igboho’s detention for another six months even without a criminal charge against him in the court.
Malami’s position only further confirmed the belief by Nigerians that Igboho is being held in Benin Republic on the orders of the Federal Government which is fully opposed to agitation for self-determination in spite of being guaranteed in the constitution and the African Chatter on Human and People’s Rights.
It also confirmed that the government has no respect for rule of law considering the fact that a court of competent jurisdiction has given a judgment affirming Igboho’s rights to agitate for self-determination. The September 17, 2021 judgment by an Oyo State High Court also declared the invasion of his Soka, Ibadan residence by officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) in the wee hours of July 1, 2021, as illegal and a violation of his rights to own property and live there peacefully.
Having committed no offence, the court held that Igboho should not be arrested or harrassed by the DSS, police or any agency of government for promoting self-determination of the Yoruba people.
Declaring that the government was waiting to pick Igboho on his return to Nigeria, therefore, exposed a determination to further violate his rights on arrival, and an insistence on spurning the decision of the court. At any rate, if the court has so held, why does Igboho need a political consideration to return to Nigeria and enjoy the freedom of a bona fide citizen?
As part of his presentation in court, Igboho’s lead counsel, Chief Yomi Alliyu (SAN), pointed out that going by the credentials of the Federal Government on the rule of law, he could not guarantee Igboho’s safety if he returned to Nigeria at the time. He referred to the bloody invasion of his client’s house during which two persons were killed and their corpses taken to Abuja as an evidence.
Alliyu added, through a witness, that one of the female officers who led the DSS squad to Igboho’s house was shouting: “Shoot him dead. I want him dead,” to corroborate his claim.
One would have thought that a president that swore to uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will obey the law and let Igboho be. And that the government of Nigeria will do everything to secure the release of her citizen who is being held without a criminal charge in another country. Instead, the Federal Government has officially kept mum, watching Nigerian citizen languishing in prison without being found guilty of any offence. Out of satisfaction with the shameful development, it is also threatening to arrest him to face charges whenever he returns to Nigeria.
Like on many other issues, the government is proving again that it has little or no respect for the courts it set up and which it funds to ensure orderliness, justice and equity in Nigeria.
In another perspective, does any country have the right to incarcerate a citizen of another country for over six months without trial? I am still unable to understand the reason Benin Republic is comfortably holding Igboho captive if the Nigerian government was not colluding with it.
Obviously, Benin Republic is violating Igboho’s human rights including personal liberty, freedom of movement, presumption of innocence and dignity of human person, among others, which are guaranteed by several ECOWAS treaties, charters and conventions. His rights are additionally guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
As an ECOWAS citizen, the embattled agitator is free to move from one member state (country) to another as long as he does not flout local laws or attempt to flee prosecution in his home country after violation of his country’s laws.
During the hearing of the case in the Oyo State High Court, the Federal Government could not prove that Igboho was declared wanted for a criminal offence or that his house was officially searched, according to the law of the land during which anything incriminating was found, to justify any claim that he was escaping prosecution.
Judging by the magnitude of the horror perpetrated on the people of Ibarapa land spanning three local governments of Oyo State, particularly from 2019 to 2021, one would have expected the Federal Government to deploy resources to fish out and hold accountable those who kidnapped, killed, maimed, and wantonly destroyed properties of the people of the area.
The Federal Government deliberately chose to ignore the pains, anguish and the economic woes into which criminal herders and their collaborators plunged the people of Ibarapa and went after Igboho who was only inspired by insecurity, genocide, and crimes perpetuated against the people particularly within two years leading to his arrest.
The situation is still worrisome in some parts of Ondo State where kidnapping is still going on regularly. Instead of the Federal Government to take measures that deter criminals from snuffing life out of innocent Nigerians, prosecute those destroying means of livelihoods of law abiding citizens and thereby promoting cohesion and spirit of patriotism, it is deploying huge resources and time to persecute Igboho who is merely riding on the tide of public dissent to lawfully agitate for Yoruba nation.
Given the fact that the Federal Government has all it needs to oppress Igboho, it can succeed in hounding him to prison in Nigeria or in any other country, even if on trumped-up charges. But will that promote ethnic unity which Nigeria desperately desires? Will it assuage others who believe that injustice against the Yoruba or Igbo or any other ethnic group in Nigeria should not continue unchallenged? Will it suffice as compensation for those who suffered avoidable human, material and other losses in Igangan and the entire Ibarapa in the course of the crisis? Even if the government wins the legal and battle of force, the moral battle will remain a deep wound in the heart of the bereaved and other victims of vicious attacks in Ibarapa land and other parts of Yoruba land.
The Federal Government won the battle of force by executing Ken Saro Wiwa in the 90s but the agitation for resource control only grew to a dangerous level, a development that came with various forms of violence which threw the South-South region into crime field to the level that it almost held Nigeria in the jugular by reason of limitation on oil exploration.
- Oladele, an Ibadan-based journalist, wrote through [email protected]
(Culled from The Nation)