Buruji Kashamu fought his extradition to face drug-related charges in the United States for years. He did legally and at a point, spent six days in the toilet, trying to hide from law enforcement agents.
On Saturday evening, the former senator took his last breath at First Cardiology Consultants hospital, Lagos, where he was receiving treatment for COVID-19 complications.
Prominent Nigerians have sent their condolences to the family of the Ogun-born politician. Until death, Mr Kashamu’s life revolved around the drug allegations, politics, and his lottery business, Western Lotto Limited.
In 1998, Mr Kashamu was indicted by a grand jury for conspiracy to import heroin, a prohibited substance, into the U.S.
He was indicted following incriminating evidence provided by three of his alleged co-conspirators.
Seven months after, the UK’s Metropolitan Police arrested him while travelling with a Beninese passport.
Mr Kashamu was detained at the Brixton Prison pending the completion of his extradition process which had been initiated by the United States’ Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.
Mr Kashamu said he was not the leader of the drug-smuggling conspiracy. He claimed that the so-called “Alaji”, the drug-smuggling kingpin was his brother, Adewale Kashamu, who was allegedly killed in 1989 by the personnel of the Nigerian Customs. He said he shared a striking resemblance with his deceased brother.
On January 10, 2003, Timothy Workman, a magistrate in the UK, dismissed the extradition request put forward by the United States, stating among other things that Mr Kashamu indeed had a similar-looking brother who was killed in 1989 by Customs officials.
The Magistrate also found that certain assertions by the U.S. government in the extradition proceedings were untrue. He subsequently ordered the release of Mr Kashamu.
However, the United States did not relent in its quest to extradite Mr Kashamu to the country to face trial for the alleged heroin-smuggling conspiracy he led.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the U.S. authorities’ line of argument, positing that it is not bound by Mr Workman’s conclusion that Mr Kashamu’s brother was the co-conspirator because Kashamu’s extradition proceeding was a preliminary proceeding and not a proceeding in which the full merits, and the full evidence, were considered.”
The U.S. government said “The government believes in good faith that Kashamu, and not any alleged brother, is the co-conspirator in this case” because two members of the Kashamu’s alleged heroin-smuggling ring, Catherine and Ellen Wolters, “independently identified Kashamu, through his arrest photograph, as the person whom they knew as “Alaji.”
The government, to the undersigned attorney’s knowledge, has never received any photograph of the alleged brother and has been unable to test the veracity of Kashamu’s claim about him.”
Attempt to escape
In May 2015, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) laid a siege to Mr Kashamu’s residence in Lagos in a bid to arrest and send him to the U.S.
For the ensuing six days, Mr Kashamu, a senator then, reportedly locked himself inside a toilet and refused to submit himself to federal authorities, PREMIUM TIMES reported.
His lawyers later obtained a court order which forbade the NDLEA from carrying out the arrests. The agency withdrew its personnel, thus ending the six-day siege.
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation filed several submissions before the Federal High Court, seeking to arrest Mr Kashamu for extradition.
However, the attempts were frustrated by several injunctions granted by the court, prompting the AGF to seek redress at the Court of Appeal.
To restate its commitment to the case, in 2016, a U.S. Court of Appeal in Chicago, Illinois, ruled that Mr Kashamu must answer his drug allegations.
However, in May, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruled that neither the federal government nor any of its agents could validly initiate extradition proceedings against Mr Kashamu in view of subsisting judgements and orders in favour of the plaintiff, which had remained unchallenged.
Mr Kashamu was born in Ogun State on May 19, 1958. He started his education at Ansar Ud Deen Primary School, Ijebu Igbo and left in 1972 to complete his primary school education at St. John Modern School, Lagos.
He said he attended evening classes at Igbobi College while working as a licensing agent and later went to London where he took courses in Business Management at Pitman College, London.
Mr Kashamu was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party until his death, although was expelled for anti-party activities in 2018.
In 2015, he contested for the Ogun East senatorial seat and beat his closest rival, Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressive Congress to clinch the senatorial seat.
He was also the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 Ogun State gubernatorial election and lost against Mr Abiodun, who emerged the Governor of the state.
In an interview with DAILY POST earlier this year, he said his interest in the gaming industry stemmed from the opportunity it gives for wealth generation, redistribution and empowerment of the masses.
He also called for the sanitisation of the lottery industry.
He commented on his rancour with other lottery operators, who he said described his company as whistle-blowers for the Federal Government.
“My interest and support for a transparent reign in the lottery business in Nigeria is further accentuated by my known support for the anti-corruption drive of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and avowed commitment to fighting injustice wherever it raises its ugly head. The truth is: most of the lottery and sports betting operators have been defrauding and practically exploiting the federal and state governments by short-changing them for over 20 years,” he was quoted as saying.