Extradition is a process, under relevant treaties, provisions of law or on the basis of reciprocity, where one country request another country to surrender a suspect in its country who is accused of having committed a crime or convicted of a criminal offence against the law of the requesting country having jurisdiction over the suspect to be extradited.
The essence of extradition is to protect global criminal justice system by preventing individuals who have committed criminal offences in another jurisdiction from getting away with the offence. Again, extradition may be necessary because the materials to prosecute the suspect are available in the requesting country. However, a suspect can only be extradited from one country to another to face criminal prosecution if there is an extradition treaty or agreement between both countries.
A multi-lateral treaty referred to as "The London Scheme of Extradition within the Commonwealth" ("the Scheme") governs extradition between the United Kingdom and Nigeria. Before an extradition order can be made under the Scheme, a prima facie case must be established against the suspect. The Scheme is the basis for Section 2 (2) of Nigeria's Extradition Act, CAP E25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 ("Nigeria's Extradition Act") which provides that the Act is applicable to every independent and sovereign commonwealth country.
On 22nd December 1931, the colonial Nigerian government entered into an Extradition Treaty with the United States ("the 1931 Treaty") and the Treaty came into force on 24th June, 1935. After Nigeria's colonial rule on 1st October 1960, the Treaty became a statute of general application and became part of the legal system of Nigeria. After independence, Nigeria entered into extradition treaties with other countries including Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Togo and South-Africa.
Section 1 of Nigeria's Extradition Act provides that where there is a treaty or agreement between Nigeria and other countries, the President may by order apply the provisions of the Act to that country. This provision allows Nigeria to apply for extradition of a suspect in the United Kingdom under the Scheme; a suspect in United States of America under the 1931 Treaty and a suspect in other countries under relevant treaties with Nigeria.
Under Nigeria's Extradition Act, request for surrender of a suspect is made in writing to the Attorney General of the Federation ("the Attorney General"). The Attorney-General may by order signify to a magistrate to deal with the case. If evidence is produced to the satisfaction of the magistrate, the magistrate shall issue a warrant of arrest and deliver a certified copy of the warrant and the evidence upon which he issued the warrant to the Attorney General.
In order to effect an extradition of a suspect from the United Kingdom to Nigeria for instance, the warrant of arrest and request shall be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Services if the suspect is in England or Wales; if the suspect is in Scotland, it will be submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services and to the Crown Solicitor's Office if the suspect is in Northern Ireland. The essence of submitting the initial request to these respective offices in the jurisdiction where the suspect resides is to resolve potential problems in the request at the onset.
The request will then be forwarded to the Secretary of State who will certified same and send it to a Court. The Court shall decide whether to issue a warrant of arrest. If a warrant is issued, the suspect is brought to Court and a preliminary hearing will be held before the extradition hearing. Upon grant of an extradition order, the Secretary of State will decide on the extradition order.
The problem with extradition of foreign nationals to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution is that more Nigerians who committed crimes in foreign jurisdictions with reciprocal treatment with Nigeria have been extradited to face criminal prosecution in foreign jurisdictions than foreign nationals who committed crimes in Nigeria to be extradited to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution.
There is almost no record of foreign nationals extradited to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution. Of what essence then are the extradition treaties which Nigeria entered with these countries?
Nigeria's requests for foreign nationals to be extradited to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution are usually rejected on the excuse that the suspect will not be given a fair trial in Nigeria and the poor state of Nigerian prisons. This has defeated the aim of the respective extradition treaties which Nigeria entered with other countries. This is because Nigeria is always at the receiving end.
Also, most of Nigeria's requests for extradition of foreign nationals to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution are turned down by foreign Courts because a prima facie case is not established and evidence of torture and poor living standards in Nigerian prisons.
It is therefore important for the Attorney General to ensure that every request for extradition of foreign nationals to Nigeria establishes a substantial prima facie case against the suspect. Also, deliberate efforts should also be made to correct the abnormalities in Nigeria Correctional Facilities and legal system. This is the only way in which Nigeria will benefit from its extradition treaties with other countries.
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