The extradition proceedings filed against Abba Kyari by the federal government to seek the court’s approval to surrender him to the United States government suffered a setback on Wednesday.
The judge, Inyang Ekwo, of the Federal High Court in Abuja, had to adjourn the hearing based on the complaints of non-service by Mr Kyari’s legal team.
Earlier on Wednesday, the federal government’s lawyer from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Pius Akuta, informed the judge that the case was for a “preliminary hearing.”
But Mr Kyari’s lawyer, Nureni Jimoh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the court that the government’s relevant filings had not been served on him.
Mr Akuta then undertook to serve the necessary court documents on the defence within two days.
The judge then adjourned the suit until April 27, with a directive to Mr Kyari’s lawyer to respond to the government’s filing within 14 days of being served.
The AGF office filed the extradition application against Mr Kyari, a suspended deputy commissioner of police and former head of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), following a request by U.S. authorities.
Mr Kyari is being wanted by the American government over pending fraud charges filed against him and others at the Central District Court of Central District of California.
U.S. prosecutors accuse him of complicity in the $1.1million international fraud spearheaded by Abbas Ramon popularly known as Hushpuppi, a former Nigerian Instagram celebrity, who now awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to the scam and other criminal financial activities.
Mr Kyari while on suspension over his roles in the Hushpuppi’s case, was fingered by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in a 25kg cocaine deal earlier this year.
The formerly celebrated police officer and four members of his former police unit, who are remanded in the custody of the NDLEA, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But two other men accused of importing the illegal drug into Nigeria through the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, in January, have pleaded guilty.
On March 14, 2022, the judge, Emeka Nwite, also of the Federal High Court in Abuja, heard the bail application filed by Mr Kyari and others.
The judge adjourned further proceedings till March 28.
Concerns over extradition
There are concerns in legal circles that the cocaine charges may scuttle the extradition proceedings initiated against Mr Kyari.
The concerns are anchored on section 3 (6) of the Extradition Act, which prohibits the extradition of a fugitive standing trial on different criminal charges in Nigeria.
The part of the Extradition Act reads, “(A) A fugitive criminal who has been charged with an offence under the law of Nigeria or any part thereof, not being the offence for which his surrender is sought; or
“(B) Who is serving a sentence imposed in respect of any such offence by a court in Nigeria, shall not be surrendered until such a time as he has been discharged whether by acquittal or on the expiration of his sentence or otherwise.”
Recently asked by journalists to address the seeming contradiction of pressing criminal charges against Mr Kyari in Nigeria and seeking to extradite him to the U.S. at the same time, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, merely said there was no confusion over the two cases.
Mr Malami did not address the more important issue of the likelihood of the court dismissing the extradition proceedings once Mr Kyari’s legal defence team is able to show the court that the police officer is still facing charges in Nigeria.
In his application for extradition application filed in court, Mr Malami only said there were no criminal proceedings pending against Mr Kyari in Nigeria on the same offences he was being sought for in the U.S.
Mr Malami’s lack of clarity on the likely impact the Extradition Act provision may have on the move to surrender the suspect to the U.S. continues to fuel speculations that the extradition proceedings were programmed to fail to enable the police officer to remain in Nigeria where his trial on cocaine charges can drag on for many years.
U.S’ extradition request
Earlier, the Diplomatic Representative of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, had in its request to Mr Malami, noted that a warrant for Mr Kyari’s arrest issued by a U.S. District Court “remains valid and executable to apprehend Kyari”.
According to the request, “On April 29, 2021, based on the indictment filed by the grand jury and with the approval of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, a deputy clerk of the court issued a warrant of arrest for Kyari.
“The arrest warrant remains valid and executable to apprehend Kyari for the crimes with which he is charged in the indictment.
“Kyari is wanted to stand trial in the United States for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, and identity theft.
“Kyari is the subject of an indictment in case Number 2:21-cr-00203 (also referred to as 2:21-MJ-00760 and 2:21-CR-00203-RGK), filed April 29, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.”
Mr Kyari, along with five other defendants, faces three charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleged that Mr Kyari and co-conspirators were part of a scheme spearheaded by Hushpuppi to defraud a businessperson in Qatar between November 2019 and April 2020.
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