The Federal Government has not appealed against the ruling of Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which dismissed a suit seeking the extradition of the Ogun-East Senator, Buruji Kashamu, to the United States of America to face illicit drug charge, findings by our correspondent have shown.
Since it was an interlocutory ruling and not a judgment on the main suit, the government ought to have appealed against the ruling which was delivered on July 1, within 14 days.
Justice Kolawole had, in his ruling on July 1, dismissed the extradition suit on the grounds that his court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it since the judgment of the Lagos division of the court nullifying the proceedings had not been set aside by any appellate court.
Justice Okon Abang of the Lagos division had, on June 8, 2015, nullified the extradition proceedings instituted before Justice Kolawole in the Abuja division of the court on the grounds that the suit was commenced in contravention of some subsisting court orders which had exonerated Kashamu of culpability in the alleged crime in the US.
Justice Abang’s order nullifying the proceedings was affirmed by Justice Ibrahim Buba in a ruling on June 23, 2015.
Our correspondent’s findings showed that the Federal Ministry of Justice had appealed against the two judgments by Justices Abang and Buba.
No official of the ministry was willing to offer information on whether or not the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation had appealed against Justice Kolawole’s ruling, which quashed the extradition suit.
However, a senior lawyer with the case but who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak for the ministry, confirmed the outcome of our correspondent’s search at the registry of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal that no appeal had been filed against Justice Kolawole’s ruling.
One of the lawyers in Kashamu’s legal team, Mr. Babs Akinwumi, also on Thursday confirmed that there was no pending appeal against the ruling.
“They (the Federal Ministry of Justice) have not appealed against the ruling. If they have appealed against it, they would have served us with their notice of appeal. Up till now, we have not received copies of their processes in the office, where they usually serve us,” he said.
According to Akinwumi, going by the provisions of the law, the ministry ought to have filed an appealed against the court’s decision within 14 days since the ruling was interlocutory and not a ruling on the main suit.
He said if it was a judgment on the main suit, then the appellant would have up to 30 days to file an appeal against the decision.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Charles Nwodo, said he did not have information on the case.
But justifying the ministry’s refusal to appeal against Justice Kolawole’s ruling, our source said the ministry hoped that it would win its appeals against the judgments of Justices Abang and Buba, and that would clear the way for a fresh extradition application to be filed.
“Their (the ministry’s) strategy is to get the judgments from Lagos set aside and if they (the ministry) are able to achieve that, they will then file a fresh extradition application,” the source said.
The immediate past Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, had filed the application on May 28, 2015, upon a United State Government’s request asking the Nigerian government to submit Kashamu for extradition.
The then AGF stated in the application, FHC/ABJ/CS/479/2015, that Kashamu, described by the US government as being also known as Alhaji and Kashmal, was a subject of a one-count second superseding indictment in criminal case No. 94 CR 172 filed before the Illinois court on May 21, 1998.
An affidavit deposed to by the Assistant US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Diane MacArthur, attached to the extradition request from the US government, was said to be dated April 27, 2015.
By the US government’s charge against him, Kashamu allegedly conspired with others to intentionally import “and did import into the United States” quantities of mixtures containing heroin between 1992 and 1995.
The offence for which Kashamu is allegedly wanted in the US is said to contravene Section 952(a) of Title 21, United States Code, and punishable under Section 960 of the same law.
The penalty for the offence on conviction under the law, according to the charge, is an imprisonment of not more than 10 years or a fine of up to $10m in the case of an individual or both.