Olasupo Ojo, coordinator of legal affairs of Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, better known as Sunday Igboho, has said International Refugee Law permits his client to enter any country with a “fake passport”.
According to him, Article 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees provides thus:
“The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorisation, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
“The Contracting States shall not apply to the movements of such refugees restrictions other than those which are necessary and such restrictions shall only be applied until their status in the country is regularised or they obtain admission into another country.
“The Contracting States shall allow such refugees a reasonable period and all the necessary facilities to obtain admission into another country.”
Ojo, who said this on Wednesday, when he featured on PUNCH’s online interview programme, ‘The Roundtable’, however, said Igboho did not obtain a fake Beninese passport as reported by some section of the media.
The lawyer noted that his client’s life was under threat by the Department of State Services (DSS), hence, the activist felt the need to run for his life.
He stated that the photocopies of the German residential permit and the Nigerian passport Igboho had on him were enough for him to travel under international law, saying “so, he didn’t obtain any fake passport”.
“Anybody fleeing for his life is protected under international law and the fact that he has even applied for asylum makes him untouchable”, he added.
Igboho, who has been agitating for the establishment of Oodua Republic, has been in detention since July 19, 2021, when he was arrested by at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
On July 1, the DSS raided his house in Ibadan, Oyo State, killed two of his associates and arrested 11 others.
Igboho was arrested in Cotonou when he tried to catch a flight to Germany with his wife, Ropo, after the Nigerian government notified Interpol that he should be hunted.
Speaking further, Ojo said the secret police in Nigeria acted illegally by raiding his client’s house, and by declaring him wanted without a court order.
“Anybody faced with such situation is entitled to take necessary steps to protect his life. He (Igboho) has chosen to flee the country for the preservation of his life and international law permits him to do that whether legally or illegally, you have the right to preserve your life first,” he explained.
“Even if you enter any country illegally, that seeming illegality is legalised by the international refugee law that anybody who is fearful of his life has the right to go out of any country anyhow and enter any country anyhow and apply for asylum.
“Even if you have a fake passport, the moment you get to that country and you apply for asylum, and you explain that ‘this is why I did this’, you have not committed any crime.
“In addition to that, this is ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), any citizen of West African can enter any country in the region without a visa.”