• Nigeria ready for diplomatic show down if Benin Republic declines
The Nation reports
As Yoruba nation agitator Sunday Igboho returns to court on Monday in Cotonou, Nigeria has demanded nothing short of his extradition.
The Federal Government has communicated this position to the Benin Republic, which plans an extradition hearing.
Igboho was arrested on July 19 at the Cotonou Airport along with his wife, Ropo, while attempting to travel to Germany.
He was declared wanted by the Directorate of State Service (DSS) when he fled during a raid on his Ibadan residence on July 1. He was put on the International Police (INTERPOL) watch list.
He appeared in court twice last week in Cotonou. The matter was adjourned till Monday.
Sources in government at the weekend told The Nation that the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice handling the matter had sent diplomatic communication to Benin about why it should extradite Igboho (real name Sunday Adeyemo) to Nigeria to face trial.
Both the Nigeria Police Force and the DSS have declared him wanted in respect of some criminal allegations.
A source said: “We have submitted a heap of documentary evidence, including video clips to the Benin Republic to guide its diplomatic judgment.
“We are optimistic that our neighbour will release Igboho to INTERPOL for extradition.”
He added: “The release of Igboho’s wife was one of the diplomatic hurdles which the Benin Republic and Nigeria tried to resolve.
“Being a Nigerian-German citizen, Germany came out to protect her rights. Since there was no allegation against her by Nigeria, the court did not waste time in releasing her.
“The two countries have avoided diplomatic spat with Germany. The battle is now about the criminal conspiracy against Igboho.”
The Federal Government has also promised justice and fairness for the agitator if released to face trial in Nigeria.
However, should the Benin government fail to release Igboho for trial, the Nigerian government would go into a diplomatic showdown with it.
The measures to be taken may include but are not limited to economic blockade.
A source said: “Our position is that the Benin Republic stands to lose a lot if Igboho is not extradited to Nigeria.
“In diplomatic relations, the interest of a state is higher than that of an individual. There are many bilateral issues Nigeria and the Republic of Benin have been trying to resolve in the last year and no individual should create a setback.
“If the Republic of Benin allows a criminal waiver for Igboho, the diplomatic consequences are weighty. We will draw the line.
“Apart from a likely diplomatic Cold War, Nigeria will not reopen its borders with the Republic of Benin which had been shut for months. We don’t mind a tit-for-tat. We have done it before, we can do so now.”
The government source, who is involved in the coordination of diplomatic talks to extradite Igboho, said: “We had a robust antecedent of this type of Igboho scenario between Nigeria and the Benin Republic 18 years ago. In 2003, a notorious trans-border criminal from the Niger Republic, Hammani Tijjani, went to hide in the Benin Republic.
“Tijjani was believed to have been responsible for the attack on the first daughter of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ms Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello.
“The threats from Obasanjo made the Benin Republic to hand over Tijjani to Nigeria for justice. He was tried and bagged a 10-year jail term.
“When the Benin Republic was not forthcoming on Tijjani, Nigeria closed its borders until ex-President Mathew Kerekou buckled under.
“Benin Republic is a member of the MNJTF in the Lake Chad region with a mandate to ‘deal with cross-border security issues’.
“Other MNJTF nations are Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and the Niger Republic. We have asked the Benin Republic to respect the mandate of this organisation in the interest of peace in the region.
“As it is now, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Benin Republic, Gen. Yusuf Buratai is a former Commander of MNJTF. He has sufficient knowledge on this.”