Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has disclosed that Tukur Buratai, Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin Republic, requested that Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, better known as Sunday Igboho, should be handed over to him, but was told to follow the right process.
Igboho, who is currently in detention in Benin Republic, was arrested on July 19 in Cotonou, the country’s capital, by security forces while trying to flee to Germany.
The charges by the federal government against Igboho, who has been agitating for Yoruba nation, include arms smuggling, inciting violence and calling for a secession of the Yoruba from Nigeria.
Speaking on the development on Thursday, Falana, in a programme on Channels Television, said Buratai, the former chief of army staff, made the request to the government of Benin Republic when he had not even presented his Letter of Credence
The senior advocate argued that the federal government must always follow the appropriate legal process in dealing with secessionists, saying he learnt that there were attempts to throw Igboho into a waiting plane for return to Nigeria when he was arrested.
“In the case of Sunday Igboho, again despite my disagreement with him, I came out to say you cannot just throw him into a waiting plane as we were told, it was attempted”, he said.
“You have to go to court. You have to make a request under international law, under the ECOWAS convention on extradition.
“The government of Nigeria is requested to submit an extradition request to the government of Benin Republic and so when the plenipotentiary, General Yusuf Buratai (retired), who at that time had not submitted his letters of credence asked that Igboho be handed over to him.
“He was told, ‘sorry, we operate the rule of law here’. That is why that matter is still in court”.
Falana noted that he is opposed to the break-up of the country, but the law guarantees the rights of self-determination.
The lawyer asked the federal government to respect human rights and always follow the legal process while dealing with those calling for secession.
“Unless we respect the rights of our people and the human rights of people in our country, we are going to be embarrassed continuously,” he stated.
“And that is what has just happened in the United States, where a senator has moved a motion that certain aircraft should not be sold to Nigeria because of gross human rights violation.
“I have a fundamental disagreement, a fundamental ideologically disagreement with those calling for the break-up of the country along ethnic lines but the law has imposed a duty on the government.
“And the rest of us, respect the rights of such people and in fact article 20 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights guarantees the rights to self-determination.”