Facts on Tuesday emerged about how Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Benin Republic, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), was instrumental in the arrest of the Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho.
According to Punch, a top security source in the Benin Republic said that the former Chief of Army Staff wrote the government of the small West African country and insisted on the arrest and extradition of Igboho.
It was gathered that Buratai was at the forefront of the ongoing move to extradite the activist.
A few hours after Igboho’s arrest on Monday, his Beninese lawyers and other experts met with some Benin Republic government officials and called for the halting of his extradition.
Buratai, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff between July 2015 and January 2021, was deployed as Nigeria’s envoy in the Benin Republic in June 2021.
Before then, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had presented Buratai’s nomination to the Senate and the upper chamber of the National Assembly had confirmed the ex-COAS’ nomination despite public outcry of some crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Nigerian Army under Buratai’s leadership.
A top security source in Benin Republic, who spoke to one of our correspondents said that Buratai through the Nigerian Embassy in the small West African country sent a secret letter to the Benin government to be on the lookout for Igboho.
It was gathered that the letter was instrumental to the arrest of Igboho and his wife, Ropo, at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, the largest city in the French-speaking country.
Recall that three weeks ago, the Department of State Services declared Igboho wanted for allegedly stockpiling arms, an allegation he had since denied.
Before then, the DSS on July 1, 2021 raided his house at Soka area of Ibadan, killing two of his aides and arresting 12 others.
Later that day, the DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, at a press briefing in Abuja, paraded Igboho’s associates and detained them thereafter, denying them access to their lawyers and not charging them to court.
The DSS also paraded some passports, AK-47 rifles, rounds of ammunition, African bulletproof vests, among others as exhibits. The secret police claimed that the items were recovered from Igboho’s house during the bloody raid.
The Federal Government subsequently placed the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigeria Customs Service on alert to stop Igboho from leaving the country.
It was gathered that the government beefed up security at Iwajowa, Saki West, and Ibarapa local government areas of Oyo State which were adjoining areas to the Benin Republic.
Igboho, who rose to prominence in January 2021 after he issued an ultimatum to ‘killer herders’ in parts of Ibarapaland was said to have escaped the security apparatus in the areas to the Benin Republic where he was scheduled to catch a flight to Germany.
According to a top source familiar with the matter, the Nigerian government foresaw the possibility of Igboho flying to Europe through Benin Republic and planted a landmine for him there through Buratai.
Benin Republic immigration stops Igboho from boarding flight to Germany
The source said, “He (Igboho) was arrested in Cotonou on Monday night while he tried to travel. He was already at the airport with a passport. The immigration officers suspected the passport and so they stopped him. In the process, they discovered he was the one. He was able to escape in the course of discussion and we were grateful to God for that.
Igboho initially escapes but lured back by a travel agent, arrested by Interpol on return
“But the travel agent called back saying the matter had been resolved. But on going back, he was arrested. He was trying to travel to Germany when he was apprehended.
“A lot of people made effort to resolve the matter but we discovered that the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic (Tukur Buratai) was already aware and he said that he (Igboho) must be extradited.”
A security source present in Benin Republic also told The PUNCH that the International Criminal Police Organisation, at the behest of the Nigerian Government, arrested Igboho and his wife at the airport around 8pm on Monday.
The source said, “Interpol at the airport came and arrested him saying he was wanted in Nigeria. He was together with his wife.”
When asked whether the ex-COAS and current Nigerian envoy in Benin Republic was aware of the development, the source said, “Of course, he (Buratai) knew about the case. On July 7, 2021, the Nigerian Government through the Ambassador sent a secret letter to Nigerian Embassy, Nigerian Embassy sent a letter to Ministry of External Affairs in Benin Republic, External Affairs sent to Internal Affairs, Internal Affairs sent to police to arrest Sunday Igboho.”
The source added said Igboho and his wife had been detained in “Benin Republic Criminal Police cell”, adding that “Buratai should have gone to the police station because he was the one that told them to arrest him.”
The source said though the German Embassy was intervening in the matter because Igboho’s wife is a German citizen, the Nigerian Government could have its way and extradite Igboho today (Wednesday).
“I was told they are coming tomorrow. My prayer is that he should remain in Cotonou or be allowed to go to Germany because I don’t know what would happen to him in Abuja,” the source said.
Igboho’s legal team reaches out to Benin govt to stop activist’s extradition
Meanwhile, the activist’s lawyers have reached out to the Benin Republic government to halt his extradition.
It was gathered on Tuesday that the legal team in Benin met with some senior officials in the Francophone country to thwart moves by the Federal Government to repatriate Igboho.
A member of Igboho’s legal team, Pelumi Olajengbesi, confirmed the development to The PUNCH in Abuja on Tuesday.
Speaking on the circumstances of Igboho’s arrest and moves by the FG to repatriate him to Nigeria, Olajengbesi explained that the legal team representing the activist had said they would do all that was necessary to prevent their client’s extradition.
He said , “The lawyers we engaged in Benin have met with some officials of the country to prevent the extradition.
“Igboho’s lawyers in Benin have already reached out to senior officials in Benin to ensure that he is not brought back to Nigeria. They (legal team) have assured us that they are doing all that is necessary to keep him in Benin.
“The Federal Government or Benin Republic won’t be able to circumvent the law to bring him to Nigeria. He is currently a prisoner of conscience in Benin Republic and the entire world is watching how the Benin government would manage the matter.”
Olajengbesi stated that the Federal Government would not be allowed to give Igboho “the Nnamdi Kanu treatment.
“When Nnamdi Kanu was arrested, nobody was aware and the Federal Government has refused to admit that he was arrested in Kenya. Since we have been informed of Igboho’s arrest, there have been a lot of legal interventions that the law is followed.
“The lawyers we engaged in Benin are especially discussing with the Benin Republic government. We are very confident that they won’t be able to repatriate him.”
Security sources said the Federal Government would go to any length, including offering juicy concessions to the Benin Republic to get them to release Igboho to Nigerian security operatives.
An official disclosed that the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation may charge Igboho with unlawful possession of firearms, attempted treason, conspiracy and disturbance of public peace, among others.
Igboho’s lead counsel, Yomi Alliyu (SAN), in a statement obtained by The PUNCH on Tuesday, confirmed that Igboho and his wife were arrested in Benin Republic.
He stated that the Nigerian Government treated his client unjustly and committed “savagery acts” by “invading” the activist’s house in the middle of the night, destroying his property, detaining and killing his associates.
Alliyu argued that “The Extradition Treaty of 1984 between Togo, Nigeria, Ghana and Republic of Benin excluded political fugitives. It also states that where the fugitive will not get justice because of discrimination and/or undue delay in prosecution the host country should not release the fugitive.
“Now, Article 20 of African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to which the four countries are signatories made agitation for self-determination a fundamental right to be protected by all countries. This made Chief Sunday Adeyemo a political offender who cannot be deported and/or extradited by the good people of the Republic of Benin for any reason.”
The senior advocate, who described the arrest of his client as shocking, urged the government of Germany, Benin Republic and the international community “to rise up and curb the impunity of the Nigerian government by refusing any application for extradition of our client who already has an application before the International Criminal Court duly acknowledged.”