Samuel Okolie: Extradition process in Nigeria

  It is quite ubiquitous for some Nigerians to commit crime in a foreign country and run back to Nigeria to seek refuge, thereby using Niger...

 

It is quite ubiquitous for some Nigerians to commit crime in a foreign country and run back to Nigeria to seek refuge, thereby using Nigeria as a safe heaven, and concomitantly using the country as a shield and cocoon against foreign prosecution. It is on the strength of this excreble pattern of operation, that the Nigerian government enacted the extradition Act of 2004, which has its provenance from the extradition Act of 1963.

The essence of this write-up is to elucidate on the process upon which a Nigerian citizen can be extradited from Nigeria.

Before, delving into the procedure for the extradition of a person from Nigeria, it is germane to understand the concept of extradition.
The extradition Act 2004, define extradition as a treaty or other arrangement made by Nigeria with any other country for the surrender, by each country to the other, of person wanted for prosecution or punishment.

COUNTRIES NIGERIA HAS EXTRADITION AGREEMENT WITH

For a Nigerian to be successfully extradited to a foreign country, that foreign country must have an extradition agreement with Nigeria. Extradition agreement is a sine qua non for the successful surrender of a fugitive to foreign prosecuting country. For example, if a Nigerian citizen commit a crime in a country like Brazil or Indonesia, and runs back to Nigeria, neither the Brazilian government nor the Indonesian government can successfully extradite such a person from Nigeria, unless they hitherto had an extradition treaty with Nigeria.

Section 2 of the extradition Act, was Lucid and explicit as regards to the countries Nigeria has extradition agreement with. The said section state thus; that the extradition Act shall apply to every separate country within the commonwealth. Implicit is that Nigeria, has an extradition agreement with every commonwealth country. Furthermore, Nigeria has an extradition agreement with the United states of America, Benin Republic and others. The aforementioned countries are not exhaustive. Whenever Nigeria entered into an extradition agreement with any country, the president may by an order publish such agreement in the federal Gazette.

REQUEST FOR SURRENDER OF A FUGITIVE CRIMINAL

Once it is establishes that Nigeria has an extradition agreement with a foreign country seeking to extradite a Nigerian citizen from Nigeria. A diplomatic representative or consular officer of that foreign country shall by writing make a request, accompanied by a duly authenticated warrant of arrest or certificate of conviction issued in that country. This is provided for in section 6(a) of the extradition Act.

Whenever a request for surrender is made to the attorney general, the Attorney-General may by an order made under his hand, signify to the magistrate that such a request has been made and require the magistrate to deal with the case in accordance with the provision of this Act.

POWERS OF MAGISTRATE TO ISSUE A WARRANT OF ARREST

Once a magistrate has received a request for surrender of a fugitive from the Attorney-General, the magistrate may then issue a warrant of arrest of the fugitive criminal, if there is an evidence that would in the opinion of the magistrate justify issuing a warrant of arrest. Once the magistrate has issued a warrant of arrest, such warrant of arrest may be executed anywhere in Nigeria.

Consequently, a fugitive criminal arrested on a warrant issued under this section shall be brought before a magistrate as soon practicable after he is arrested. This power to issue a warrant of arrest is conferred on the magistrate by 7 section of the extradition Act 2004

HEARING OF THE EXTRACTION CASE

Once a magistrate has issued a warrant of arrest and the fugitive criminal upon whom the extradition order was made, has been apprehended, the magistrate shall commence a hearing of the extradition order.
The magistrate shall then proceed to receive any evidence which may be tendered to show that the offence of which the fugitive is accused or alleged to have been convicted is not an extraction offence or that the surrender of the fugitive is for some other reason precluded by the extradition agreement (if any) in force between Nigeria and the country seeking the surrender of the fugitive.

The magistrate shall after examining the evidence tendered, and after being satisfied that:

1) The offence of which the fugitive is accused is an extradition offence in relation to that country.

(2) The warrant is issued in that country to which this acts applies.

(3) The evidence produce would, according to the law of Nigeria, Justify committal of the prisoner for trial, if the offence of which he is accused has been committed in Nigeria. The magistrate shall then subject to the provision of the extradition Act, commit the fugitive criminal to prison to await the order of the Attorney-General for his surrender.

On committing the fugitive criminal to prison, the magistrate shall:

(a) Inform the fugitive that he will not be surrendered until after the expiration of fifteen days beginning from the day on which he is so committed and that he has a right to apply for habeas corpus; and

(b) Forthwith send to the Attorney-General a certificate of committal and such report on the case as the magistrate may deem fit.

However where the circumstance are not such as to require the magistrate to commit the prisoner to prison, under the provision of this Acts, the magistrate shall order the prisoner to be discharged. This is found in Section 9 of the Extradition Act 2004.

SURRENDER OF A FUGITIVE CRIMINAL

Once a magistrate has ordered for the arrest and committal to prison of a fugitive criminal, the next phase is for the surrender of the fugitive to the requesting authority. However, a fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered before the expiration of fifteen clear days, beginning with the day on which he is so committed to prison, or if a writ of HABEAS CORPUS (This is where a person under arrest, files a writ, to be brought before the judge or court so as to secure the persons release) until the court has given its final decision on the return of the writ furthermore, where a writ of HABEAS CORPUS has been issued, and the fugitive criminal is not discharged by the court on the return of the writ. The Attorney- General may issue an order, directing that the fugitive be surrendered to any person authorized by the country requesting the surrender to receive the fugitive criminal, and the criminal fugitive shall be surrendered accordingly. This is provided for by Action 10 of the extradition Act.

Samuel Okolie is a Lagos-based legal practitioner and a human Right advocate. [email protected], 08066756987

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