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Extradition in Nigeria

BEYOND THE MAP: Extradition in Nigeria

Barr. Esther Olatunbosun

Extradition is not some extra diction to be added to your wealth of words. It is a concept to be understood because it may be needed, someday or later.

So, everyone thinks that nothing works in Nigeria- or that nothing ever can. Well, though few things can, we do not even know they can or how to make them. Extradition exists in Nigeria by virtue of Extradition Act 1967, but who knew?

Rex duped a Nigerian in Nigeria and before the Nigeria could spell ‘Nigerian’, Rex had left for South Africa. Now, the Nigerian is sure that Rex is in South Africa but does not have enough facilities to ensure his arrest. All the Nigerian needs to do is make an application to the Government who then applies to South Africa for the extradition of Rex. If South Africa decides to grant the application of the Nigerian Government, Rex is officially handed over to the Nigerian government for the prosecution of his crime. It is immaterial that Rex is a Nigerian, an American or even a South African. These are one of the instances when Extradition is applicable.

The Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th edition defines Extradition as “the official surrender of an alleged criminal by one state or country to another having jurisdiction over the crime charged.” Extradition is possible in Nigeria primarily because of the Extradition Act, 1967 {Chapter E25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004}. Nigeria is a signatory to several extradition treaties with few countries including Liberia, Commonwealth Countries, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, South Africa and a few other countries. By virtue of the signed treaty, these countries owe Nigeria the same duty of handing over persons requested subject to the provisions of Section ** of the Act.

Usually, the countries involved would sign an agreement for the release of persons wanted for prosecution or punishment to each other. The major purpose of the agreement is for the official surrender by each country to the other, of the persons wanted for alleged commission of a crime or persons convicted already but are yet to serve pronounced punishments.

Except otherwise stated by the treaty or agreement signed by both countries, the rule is that a person can be extradited for crimes which are ordinarily and by nature regarded as crimes.

“The general rule is that extraditable crimes must be commonly recognized as ‘mulum in se’ (acts criminal by their very nature) and not those which are ‘malum prohibitum’ (acts made crime by Statutes).” Per Dongban-Mensan JCA in the case of Udeozor v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2007) 15 NWLR Pt. 1058

However, countries may agree on extraditable offences through the agreement or treaty signed. Where parties agree on the form of offences which are extraditable, the general rule of ‘mulum in se’ cease to apply.

The procedure usually requires an application made to the Attorney General of the country hosting the criminal by the Consular officer or Diplomatic Representative of the Country resident in the Country willing to punish or prosecute. I think we should get back to Rex. Therefore, in the case of Rex, the Diplomatic Representative of South Africa to Nigeria makes an application to the Attorney General of South Africa for the extradition of Rex. The Nigerian would have applied to the Government and the Government applies on his behalf to the Consular officer or Diplomatic Representative. Well, isn’t that some long process? I should think so too.

The good news is that INTERPOL (International Police Organization) has 190 country-membership, including Nigeria. Instead of going through some rigours, the victim can easily report to INTERPOL through the instrumentality of National Central Bureau. Interpol is a Non-governmental organization through which arrest can be made in any parts of the 190 member-Countries. Any of the Countries may send Notices to Interpol to render a specific duty. The Red Notice are used for persons wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a sentence based on arrest warrant or court decision. It is provided as a notice to seek the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.

Therefore, once the country is a member of Interpol, the fugitive can be arrested and handed over to the country demanding such arrest. In this instance, it is immaterial whether treaties are signed between the countries as long as both countries are members of Interpol. Getting back to Rex, the Nigerian needs to report to either the Police or National Central Bureau in Nigeria and Interpol analyzes the crime and evidence available with all corresponding circumstances before swinging into immediate action.

Have you seen the 2010 movie directed by Paul Haggis titled ‘The Next Three Days’? If you have, you can be sure that John and Lara are not safe in Venezuela; not with the existence of Extradition and INTERPOL except of course, United States of America is unable to trace them to Venezuela. I also hope they would not be found; but if you are a victim and the alleged suspect or the victim is a fugitive elsewhere, think Extradition, think Interpol. It is not all places on the map that can hide a fugitive.