After watching with keen interest and rapt attention the ugly development orchestrated by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), which later degenerated into a Nollywood movie scene at Lekki, Lagos residence of Ogun East Senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu on the purported extradition request from United States government, myriads of thoughts started racing through my highly agitated mind not for any personal sympathy for the person in question, but for that irrefutable fact that Buruji Kashamu is a Nigerian like me, and remains entitled to his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution until proven guilty in a competent Court of law.
Senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu has been in a running battle with US government for almost two decades now over allegation of his involvement in drug-related offences. The allegation was that the Nigerian-born politician trafficked drugs between Europe and South-east Asia through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport between 1993 and 1995. He was later arrested and detained in United Kingdom for four years, before he was released and discharged in relation to the alleged offence as a result of mistaken identity. Since then, US government has been hell bent on extraditing Kashamu to US to answer for the alleged crime committed on its soil. What baffles concerned Nigerians like me is the manner US government is going about the whole thing, by trying to “kidnap” Kashamu on Nigerian territorial in conjunction with overzealous NDLEA officials without due process while related cases are still pending in Nigerian Courts.
In the spirit of objectivity and clarity, as a responsible and law-abiding citizen of Nigeria, I will never in any guise encourage drug trafficking or other related offences because a Nigerian is involved, but will do everything legally possible to uphold the rights of any Nigerian whether at home or abroad; whose fundamental rights are being threatened by foreigners irrespective of his political and ethnic inclinations are far different from mine. In the legal parlance, a person is presumed innocent until proved otherwise. What informed illogical actions of NDLEA officials to lay siege to the residence of Ogun East Senate-elect, Buruji Kashamu for days without any arrest warrant from authorized government institution? Why is NDLEA in a hurry to “abduct” Kashamu on Nigerian soil to US without due process? Whose script is NDLEA acting? Is this national embarrassment by NDLEA officials not a slap on the face of our hard-earned sovereignty as a nation? Is NDLEA trying to sacrifice Nigeria’s sovereignty on the altar of local politics, because its leadership does not like Kashamu’s face and his political ideology? Is this a grand conspiracy by political opponents to persecute Kashamu for his political inclinations? Where is the respect for the nation’s sovereignty our founding fathers fought for?
Will the same self-righteous US government extradite an American citizen to Nigeria without due process to be tried for similar offence if Buruji Kashamu happened to be American-born citizen that allegedly committed similar offence in Nigeria? What will be the reaction of Americans if their government as a result of its docility and lack of diplomatic prowess allow the invasion of America’s territorial integrity, let say by Russia or Germany to “abduct” any of her citizens in the name of extradition? Do you think the US President will survive the next twenty-four hours without being impeached for betraying the nation’s sovereignty he swore to protect? Are these jungle-justices like actions of NDLEA officials a result of neo-colonialism or mental slavery being suffered by Nigerian government officials, which the Reggae legend, Bob Marley prophetically advised us in his song to emancipate ourselves from? Only well-thought-out answers to these mind-illuminating questions well assuage the agitated minds like mine.
In a related case, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange ran into Ecuadorean embassy in London to avert being extradited to Sweden to answer for sexually related offences he allegedly committed in 2010. Despite being an Australian by birth and the formidable diplomatic pressures mounted on Ecuadorian government by both UK and US to release Assange to British authority where he would be extradited to Sweden for trial on sexually offences or possibly extradited to US to answer for his role in leaking confidential US diplomatic information, which prompted US government to declare him a fugitive, Ecuadorian government refused to release Assange to British authority. Julian Assange stayed in Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than two years under Ecuadorian protection not minding the legal battle against Ecuadorian government by UK which cost British tax’s payers over seven million pounds, he got such protective treatment from a country he was not in possession of any of its citizenship passport, only because he ran into her embassy in London to seek asylum. According to the senior legal adviser to the country’s embassy in London where Wikileaks founder sought sanctuary was quoted as saying, “the Ecuadorian government sought to avert the “evil” of the extradition of Julian Assange to US”.
If Ecuadorian government would go this far to uphold the rights of a foreigner just because he ran into his embassy for asylum in a foreign land, why would NDLEA in conjunction with Attorney-General and Minister of Justice connived with US officials to “kidnap” Nigeria’s Senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu on Nigerian soil in the name of extradition without due process or respect for Nigeria’s sovereignity? NDLEA ignored a court order from Federal High Court ordering them to vacate Kashamu’s residence in Lekki; this is the height of impunity on the part of NDLEA officials who are hell bent on extraditing Kashamu to US without due process. As the piece was being articulated, another Federal High Court in Lagos gave an order restraining security agencies in Nigeria from arresting and transporting the Senator-elect for Ogun East Senatorial District, Mr. Buruji Kashamu, to the United States to stand trial on the drug-trafficking offences. Justice Okon Abang, in a judgement declared as illegal, the arrest and extradition of Kashamu in relation to drug-trafficking allegations from which he had been exonerated by two British Courts. The big question is: if British Courts can refuse an American extradition request in favour of a Nigerian, then why are Nigerian government officials in hurry to unlawfully extradite her citizen to US? This was how we sold our brothers and sisters into slavery abroad because we had local disputes with them in most cases. The management of NDLEA should be sacked with immediate effect not only for trampling on the fundamental rights of Senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu, but degrading the nation’s sovereignity in the eyes of the international community.
Nwobodo Chidiebere writes from Abuja