By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
■How Igboho escaped, lured back to airport by travel agent, arrested on return
■FG more active in arresting peaceful agitators than bandits, declares Afenifere
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.
A top security source in the Benin Republic confided in The PUNCH 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, President Muhammadu Buhari 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.
The PUNCH 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 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 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 application before the International Criminal Court duly acknowledged.”
Reacting to Igboho’s arrest, the leader of the umbrella body of the Yoruba Self-Determination Groups, Ilana Oodua, Banji Akintoye, in a statement, said Yoruba patriots, who were immediately available, were working to provide assistance for Ighoho to prevent his extradition into Nigeria, saying “Benin Republic is a land that respect the rules of law”.
In the statement made available to journalists on Tuesday by his Communications Manager, Maxwell Adeleye, Akintoye called on all Yoruba People within and beyond the shores of Nigeria to come out and ensure that their ancestral land is not defeated by invaders.
“I and other Yoruba patriots who are immediately available are now working to provide the assistance necessary to ensure that nobody will be able to do to him anything unlawful or primitive and to prevent him from being extradited into Nigeria which is strongly possible.
“Fortunately, Benin Republic is reliably a land of law where the authorities responsibly obey the law. We have secured the services of a leading and highly respected lawyer whom we can confidently rely on.
“What the situation now calls for is that the Yoruba nation at home and in Diapora must stand strong, resolved that neither Sunday Igboho nor any other Yoruba person will henceforth be subjected to inhuman or dehumanizing treatment of any kind.
“We know that some people are trying to suppress or even eliminate him only because he stood up to defend his kinsmen, women and children who are being massively killed and raped in their ancestral home land; who are having their assets and means of livelihood destroyed, and who are facing ethnic cleansing and even genocide without having the benefit of protection by the rulers of their country.”
Also, a Diaspora group, Yoruba UK Governing Body, urged the German Ambassador in Cotonou, Hans-Jorg Neumann, to stop the governments of Benin Republic and Nigeria from extraditing Igboho to Abuja. The letter co-signed by the Executive Council Chief Officer, Adebayo Odusanya; and the Independent Council Chief Officer, Isaac Okebiorunkosi.
The Middle Belt Forum described the arrest as another testimony that Buhari’s regime was out to subjugate other Nigerians who were not from his northern region or faith.
The National President of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos.
But the Spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Groups, Abdul-azeez Suleiman, in a statement on Tuesday, called for a peaceful referendum on secessionist issues.
He said, “From the outset, we wish to be categorical that the arrest of Igboho and Kanu should not be mistaken as bringing about the end to the uprisings and disturbances over self determination perpetrated by Southern Nigerian elites and governments. We insist that rather than seeing the arrest as an end in itself, it should be the beginning of the processes for self-determination by any unit that wants to go.”
Also, a socio cultural group, Kiriji Heritage Defenders, in a statement by its Director General, Dr Ademola Ekundayo, called on royal fathers in Yorubaland not to allow government or its agents to kill Igboho.
A former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Lai Olurode, in an interview with journalists in Iwo, Osun State warned the Federal Government against maltreating Igboho.
The Yoruba Council of Elders Secretary-General, Dr Kunle Olajide, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Igboho should not be treated like a criminal.
FG collaborating with bandits, terrorists, says PANDEF
The Pan Niger Delta Forum took a swipe at the Federal Government over the arrest of Igboho.
The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson stated this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday.
“Well, as several persons have pointed out. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government is putting all its forces to pursue Sunday Ighoho and of course, and Nnamdi Kanu and then overlooking the bandits in the North-West and terrorist in the North-East.
“We have a situation where bandits have been emboldened enough to shoot down a military plane and burning, decimating communities, kidnapping people at will and nothing is happening to them.
“But they are pursuing an innocent man who is only saying that our people should decide how they govern themselves, how they run their affairs.
“That is all Sunday is saying. And there is nothing wrong, it is not crime to say that my people want to decide their destiny, you know how things go for them,” Robinson stated.
He said the development boils down to nepotism that this government was now known for.
“And it boils down to the nepotism that this government has become known for and the discriminatory ways it conduct the affairs of government.
“So, we condemn this attitude of government. We are saying that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
“So if you are putting all your resources to pursue one man and then you have a bunch of criminals in the North-West terrorising even in the President’s home state, Katsina.”
The Yoruba Global Alliance on its part said was daily retreating into a dangerous dictator who was bent on grounding Nigeria in shame among the comity of nations.
The group, in a statement by its Director of Public Communication, Taju Tijani, said it was monitoring the alleged ‘seizure’ of Igboho.
The statement partly reads, “Nigerians are witnessing ‘a muscular form of democracy’ under General Muhammadu Buhari who it said is daily retreating into a dangerous dictator bent on grounding Nigeria in shame among the comity of nations.”
FG more active in arresting peaceful agitators than bandits – Afenifere
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, the Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Jare Ajayi, said that the news of the arrest was a surprise but the body was still studying the situation before making a formal statement as details of the arrest was still sketchy.
He was however quick to add that security agencies appeared to be more active in hunting those who were peacefully agitating for the rights and better deals for their people than they appeared to be in dealing with bandits and terrorists who had deprived thousands of innocent Nigerians of their lives and properties.
Ohanaeze condemns Igboho’s arrest, urges FG to address agitations
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide also condemned the concerted efforts of the Federal Government in hounding separatists agitators without addressing the basis of the agitation.
It said that unless the government addressed the basis of the agitation, the concerted efforts in search of the Kanus and the Igbohos would be an effort in futility.
Ohanaeze stated this in a statement issued on Tuesday, titled: ‘concerted effort on Kanu and Igboho is a search for peace without justice”, signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonnia.
It said “The question on every mouth is whether they can apply similar zeal in treating the Boko Haram Kingpins; Fulani Herdsmen; the North West Bandits, etc.
Ohanaeze maintained that “If you want peace, then work for justice”, adding that it was an age old maxim founded on reason, experience and truth that the only way for peace to reign in a society “is for justice to be seen to be served to all.”
Ohanaeze stated that Igboho emerged in the scene because he could not endure the daily menace of the Fulani Herdsmen in the Yoruba localities for a very long time.
“The herdsmen would kill, maim and rape women at random. All entreaties to the Presidency for a swift action against the AK-47 wielding herdsmen appeared to fall on deaf ears.
“Then Igboho in a patriotic heroic zeal intervened to save the rural farmers, women and children from the daily menace of the herdsmen.”
Ozekhome, HURIWA slam FG
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, and the Human Rights Writers Association, also condemned the Federal Government’s selective enforcement of laws in handling agitations across the country.
In separate statements issued in Abuja, on Tuesday, Ozekhome and HURIWA noted that the Federal Government was effective in arresting Igboho and Kanu, but railed to capture bandits and kidnappers ravaging the country.
Ozekhome’s position was contained in a statement titled ‘The reported arrest of Yoruba Nation crusader: Pursuing the shadow, not the substance.’
He said “The same government that is suddenly effective in the case of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho have never been able to capture kidnappers, bandits and Boko Haram that are daily ravaging us, turning Nigeria into a sprawling field of human carnage.
“They take ransom. Innocent school children are paid for. Where is the same government when kidnappers are demanding that the parents of kidnapped children should now be feeding them in their kidnap dens?
“But it suddenly becomes effective and audacious when it comes to arresting and even ambushing and attacking in their very homes, self-determination activists and crusaders. I am not impressed with this at all. The government may thump its chest for temporary gains. But, does this solve the problem?”
Igboho chained in cell despite injury sustained during arrest – Counsel
The lead counsel described as inhuman the treatment his client was being subjected to in the custody of the police in Benin Republic.
The counsel, Chief Yomi Alliyu ( SAN) said this while speaking with one of our correspondents on Tuesday night.
He said his wife, Ropo, who was arrested together with Igboho was also kept in a separate cell by the police in the neighbouring country.
They chained him in the cell where they put him in Cotonou. There was a fracas at the airport yesterday when he was arrested. They hit him in the hand and that same hand was handcuffed, he is in pains and he was weeping like a child when I called, I heard him.
The wife too was put in a separate cell but they didn’t chain the wife. He was crying, the wife was crying too cease he was writhing in pains seriously. We only pray they don’t pay anybody to kill him. You don’t out somebody in cell and still chain the person.
You know he sustained injury and they didn’t take him to hospital for treatment. We heard that he is appearing in court tomorrow but I don’t know whether that will carry it out.”