An associate counsel at a Lagos law firm, Marine Partners, Chibueze Muobuikwu, examines how to make the extradition law work better.

Extradition is defined by Halsbury‘s Laws of England as the formal surrender by one country to another, based on reciprocal arrangements partly judicial and partly administrative, of an individual accused or convicted of a serious criminal offence committed outside the territory of the extraditing state and within the jurisdiction of the requesting state which, being competent by its own law to try and punish him, requests the individual’s surrender.

In Udeozor V. FRN , it was also defined as the process of returning somebody, upon request, accused of a crime by a different legal authority for trial or punishment. From the above definitions, it can be gathered that the concept of extradition applies only to criminal matters.

The concept of extradition dates back to the Medieval era, it was evidenced in the Treaty of Peace between Ramses II, Pharoh of Egypt, and the Hittite King Hattusili III. The document was written in Hieroglyphics and carved on the Temple of Ammon at Karnak and is also preserved on clay tablets in Akkodrain in the Hittites archives of Boghazkoi.

It must be observed that the concept of extradition has somewhat not been well practiced in Nigeria, little wonder there are very few reported cases on extradition in Nigeria, Nevertheless, there have been several instances of extradition in Nigeria, though some of them have not been successful. The incidence of extradition that brought this paper to fore is the recent attempt to extradite Senator Buruji Kashamu to the United States of America over drug charges.

Applicable laws

The major laws that regulate extradition in Nigeria include:

* The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended): the Constitution being the grund norm in Nigeria vests jurisdiction over extradition matters on the Federal High Court.

* The Extradition Act, Cap E 25, Laws of the Federation, 2010: this is the principal legislation for extradition matters.

* The Immigration Act, Cap 11, Laws of the Federation, 2010: this makes provision for the procedure for the transfer of the fugitive criminal to the requesting country.

* Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015: this makes provision for the procedure for search and arrest of the fugitives.

* The Evidence Act, Cap E14, Laws of the Federation, 2010: this makes provision for the mode of documentation and tendering of evidence regarding extradition.

* Various treaties between Nigeria and other Countries on extradition: here, the treaties are basis upon which extradition could be made. They determine the offences which are extraditable.

Application of the Extradition Act

By virtue of 1(1) and 2(1) of the Extradition Act, the Act applies only in respect of countries that have treaty or “extradition agreement” with Nigeria and Commonwealth countries. Nigeria has extradition treaty with several countries, prominent among them include United States of America, South Africa, Liberia, Britain. Recently, Nigeria signed an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is the treaties that enumerate what offences the two countries consider extraditable. In effect, it is only the offences enumerated in those treaties that could warrant extradition. The general rule is that extraditable offences must be those commonly recognized as malum in se (acts criminal by their very nature) and not those which are malum prohibitum (acts made crimes by statute).

Authority designated for

extradition matters

Section 6 of the Extradition Act confers the authority for extradition matters on the Office of the Attorney General. Section 6(1) of the Act provides thus:

“A request for the surrender of a fugitive criminal of any country shall be made in writing to the Attorney- General by a diplomatic representative or consular officer of that country and shall be accompanied by a duly authenticated warrant of arrest or certificate of conviction issued in that country”.

This is in line with section 174(1) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which provides that the Attorney General shall have the power to”institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly”.

• To be continued next week

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