The accused was charged on a six-count of human trafficking, human smuggling and abduction of minors.
Justice Ramat Mohammed of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Tuesday, refused an application by the Nigerian government to extradite an alleged human trafficker to Netherlands to face trial.
The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation had filed an application to extradite Kingsley Edegbe to the Netherlands to face prosecution for trafficking young girls for prostitution.
In his ruling, Mr. Mohammed said that the government’s application was incompetent and, as a result, the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it.
“The court has not been shown any extradition treaty between Nigeria and the Netherlands upon which the application sought could have been granted,” the judge said.
“The reliance on the United Nation’s Convention against Transnational Organised Crime fails because it is not an extradition treaty Act as envisaged by Section 1 of the Extradition Act of Nigeria,” he added.
Mr. Mohammed noted that although the African Charter was clearly domesticated, Nigeria also has extradition treaty with South Africa which had also been domesticated.
“This court is not prepared to hold that an extradition treaty exists between the Netherlands and Nigeria when there is none,” said Mr. Mohammed.
“It is a dangerous precedent to abandon an existing law to enable the extradition of the suspect,” he added.
The federal government had alleged that Mr. Edegbe belonged to an international syndicate involved in the trafficking of Nigerian girls to the Netherlands for prostitution and other related acts.
In the application filed before the Abuja court, Mohammed Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation, said that a demand by the Nigerian Diplomatic Representative of the Kingdom of Netherlands necessitated the extradition request.
According to Mr. Adoke, a six-count charge of human trafficking, human smuggling, falsification of travel documents, forgery of travel documents, abduction of minors, and participating in a criminal organization had been filed against Mr. Edegbe at the Netherlands’ District Court of Zwolle by the country’s National Crime Squad Team, North and East Netherlands Unit.
The alleged offences are punishable by deprivation of liberty for more than one year and covered by Articles 3, 5 and 16 of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, TOC, Convention, which Nigeria signed and ratified with its protocol in December 2004.
According to documents tendered before the court, Mr. Edegbe was wanted, specifically, for his role in the trafficking of about six Nigerian girls, aged 25, from Nigeria to the Netherlands between 2006 and 2007.
“Edegbe is responsible for the organization of human trafficking activities in Nigeria, which include recruiting minor girls victims, providing accommodation to the young women preparatory to their trip to Europe, providing the girls with false travel documents and forcing them to undergo a voodoo ritual, as a result of which they are compelled to do what the organization wanted them to do,” the court document noted.
Muslim Hassan, who represented Mr. Adoke, in his argument had urged the court to grant the extradition application in accordance with the provisions of the Extradition Act, Cap E25 Laws of the Federation 2004.
He said that the Nigerian government was obligated, under the TOC Convention, to accede to the request of the Netherlands’ authorities because both countries had signed and ratified the Convention.
He argued that there ought not to be a separate Extradition Treaty between the country and Netherlands before such extradition request could be granted.
Victor Ebonka, counsel to Mr. Edegbe, in opposing the government’s application, stated that the court cannot order the extradition of his client because the Netherlands had not met the requirement.
He noted that, not only were there no valid extradition treaty between Nigeria and the Netherlands, the National Assembly had not domesticated TOC by enacting a distinct law to that effect.
“The TOC is not yet an applicable law in Nigeria having not been domesticated,” Mr. Ebonka said.
“Domestication of treaties is different from mere signing. In this case, it was signed, but not yet domesticated by the National Assembly by enacting an express Act as was done in the case of Nigeria and South Africa,” he added.