A federal judge Friday dismissed a move by the Clerk of the National Assembly to drag former President Olusegun Obasanjo into a court suit filed by Buruji Kashamu, a Senator-elect from Ogun State.
Mr. Kashamu, who is wanted in the U.S for drug related offences, had filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos, claiming that there is a move to abduct and forcibly transport him to the U.S. to face trial.
In the suit, 12 individuals and government agencies were joined as respondents.
They include the Inspector General of Police; the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA; the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; Director General, Department of State Service; the Interpol National Central Bureau; and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Others are the Clerk of the National Assembly; the National Security Adviser to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission; Nigeria Customs Services; the Nigeria Immigration Service; and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
According to Mr. Kashamu, the respondents are colluding with unnamed political opponents to ship him off to the U.S.
The senator-elect also fingered Mr. Obasanjo as one of the masterminds of the plot, a claim he filed at the National Human Rights Commission last month.
On Friday, the counsel to the Clerk of the National Assembly filed an application before the court praying that the former president be a party in the suit.
“We have perused the affidavit (filed by Mr. Kashamu) and observed that Olusegun Obasanjo was mentioned considerably,” said Joshua Okah, counsel to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“We feel it is in the interest of justice if he is joined in this matter as a party.
“If this application is not taken and decided one way or the other, the interest of justice especially fair hearing to the party sought to be joined would be defeated if we wait for the hearing of the substantive matter.”
Alex Izinyon, Mr. Kashamu’s lawyer, described the application as “a gross abuse” of court process and asked the judge to dismiss it.
“This is the kind of application that the court awards costs to the counsel, to be paid from the counsel’s own pocket for wasting our time,” said Mr. Izinyon, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
In his bench ruling, Judge Okon Abang said the application is unknown to the rule of the court.
“I have to point out quickly that it is not Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that is praying the court to join him as respondent but the Clerk of the National Assembly,” Mr. Abang said.
“There is no provision in the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure that allows a respondent to bring another person that had not filed an application to be joined.
“I wouldn’t know why the Clerk of the National Assembly is holding brief for a person that is not a party to this issue.
“This is an abuse of court process and is accordingly struck out.”
‘NOT SEEKING COURT’S PROTECTION’
Mr. Kashamu reiterated to the court that he had not filed the suit to seek its protection from extradition but to stop the U.S from tampering with a U.K court’s ruling.
Years ago, while Mr. Kashamu was in the U.K, their courts had turned down two extradition requests by U.S agents to get the politician back to the U.S.
“The issue is not using the court for protection, a party wants to infringe on our rights,” Mr. Kashamu’s lawyer said.
“Having regard to the clean bill by two courts of competent jurisdiction to which the respondent (NDLEA) also participated which he admitted, the applicant cannot stay idle when he fears that that same losing party wants to use the respondent thereby jeopardising his liberty.”
All the respondents denied being a part of any plan to extradite or forcefully abduct Mr. Kashamu to the U.S and requested for a proof of his claims.
David Igbodo, counsel to the Inspector General of Police, described the applicant’s claim as “speculative.”
“The first respondent is not likely to make any attempt to abduct the applicant as alleged. The allegation of abduction is criminal and the first respondent being the head of a foremost enforcement agency cannot engage in abduction,” said Mr. Igbodo.
K.M.A Olusesi, counsel to the EFCC, said that since the applicant had raised the issue of abduction, which is a criminal offence, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
“Since they are saying we are planning in conjunction with other agencies, their affidavit did not prove the claim.”
A.C Akwiwu, counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, said there was “no plot whatsoever” to extradite or forcefully abduct Mr. Kashamu.
“The applicant said he was alerted by a phone call. There is no concrete, credible, cogent evidence to substantiate that fact as averred,” said Ms. Akwiwu.
“If Nigeria has an extradition agreement with any country, there is a procedure, and it is not to forcefully grab the person and ship him off.”
Okon Ibok, counsel to the Nigerian Immigration Service, urged the court to compel Mr. Kashamu to name his informant.
The judge said he would consider the respondents’ arguments and deliver a ruling or a judgment “as the case may be”.
He adjourned till May 27th.
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