Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has warned the federal government to respect the rule of law and international human rights law in handling the cases of secessionists, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Chief Sunday Adeyemo popularly known as Sunday Igboho.
Falana, who disclosed this yesterday at the Geneva Refugee Convention Symposium to mark it 70 years of existence organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lagos, noted Kenya and Nigeria have an extradition treaty, adding that what would have been done was to go court and bring back the individual, “of course that was going to be done in the case of Ighoho.”
He also noted that the government of Benin Republic refused the extradition of Ighoho to Nigeria, citing reasons that they were following the rule of law and due process.
According to him, “The court in Benin Republic is sitting almost on a daily basis because the issue of liberty is involved. Whereas in our own court, it is not so, Nnamdi Kanu was to be brought to court last Monday, but it didn’t happen; there is no explanation to that, and the case has been adjourned for three months. Apart from the Nigerian court, we also use the ECOWAS regional court to protect the rights of refugees.”
The human rights activist explained that Nigeria has a very comprehensive law for the protection of refugees such as the National Commission on Refugees’ Act 2004, noting that the law is a domestication of the United Nation Convention of 1951 as well as the Africa Union (AU) Refugee Convention of 1969.
Falana remarked that the Nigeria law is clear on who is a refugee, “and majority of the refugees in the country are politically victimised people or who fear that their lives are at stake.”
He advised the federal government to show leadership and take care of the 73,000 refugees in the country, adding that majority of those refugees are from Cameroun.
Speaking on the political crisis in Cameroun, Falana hinted that the Nigerian Government cannot pretend that all is well in the French-speaking country, and urged them to intervene.
According to him, “Regarding the crisis in Cameroun, the government of Nigeria cannot pretend that all is well in Cameroun. There was a judgment delivered in 2006 in which the people of Southern Cameroun sued the government of Nigeria to intervene and they signed terms of settlement that Nigeria was going to take up the crisis in Southern Cameroun at the level of the UN General Assembly. In South Sudan, there is also the violation of human rights and this has led people to flood into Nigeria, so the government must also act on their behalf in a way that you can have this problem resolved politically and amicably.
“We don’t need to amend the law to accommodate the rights of refugees; once you have entered Nigeria either seeking asylum or as a refugee, you are also entitled to the rights and privileges of a Nigerian. You cannot be expelled from Nigeria without going through due process. Article 12 of the African Charter states that anybody who enters any African country can be deported without going through due process and that is what is playing out in Benin Republic where our ambassador has already prepared a plane for Igboho to be brought back to Nigeria, but the government of the country has refused, stating that he must be tried in their court of law.”