By Dapo Akinrefon, Deputy Regional Editor, South-West & Onozure Dania
Beninese lawyers were, yesterday, locked in a legal tussle over attempt by the Federal Government to get Yoruba nation activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, fondly called Sunday Igboho, extradited to Nigeria.
Igboho’s lawyers insisted that since he (Igboho) did not commit any offence against Benin Republic, he should be set free, arguing that any attempt to send him back to Nigeria will endanger his life, considering invasion of his house in Ibadan by the Department of State Service, DSS, operatives last month.
Prior to the start of proceedings at the Cour D’appel De Cotonou in Benin Republic yesterday, journalists and a good number of his supporters were barred from witnessing the proceedings.
It will be recalled that the Nigerian government is pressing Beninese authorities to extradite Ighoho to Nigeria. Recall also that Igboho and his wife were arrested at Cardinal Bernardin International Airport, Cotonou, while on their way to Germany last Monday.
But his wife, Ropo, was released last weekend and her passport handed over to her.
Earlier, yesterday, the police in Cotonou dispersed Igboho’s supporters who had travelled there to witness his trial.
The security personnel, Vanguard learned, arrived the court premises in two Hilux vans, insisting that everyone, including journalists, vacate the premises.
One of the police officers told journalists that the president of the court called and ordered that they should force everyone out of the court, except lawyers.
All the officers wore black masks and wielded heavy guns as they ejected supporters and journalists out of the court premises.
Igboho was said to have been brought into the court as early as 7a.m., but was reportedly ushered into the prosecutor’s chambers, thus depriving the public the opportunity of seeing him.
Journalists not allowed into courtroom
Following the trial, journalists, monarchs, and supporters who came to the court for the case were barred from witnessing the hearing. A source at the court premises in Cotonou told Vanguard: “The press was not allowed into court room.”
But more Yoruba leaders and monarchs, yesterday, threw their weight behind Yoruba activist, as the Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, yesterday, rallied 10 prominent Benin Republic monarchs.
Benin security operatives remove leg chain, handcuffs from Igboho
Giving an update on Igboho’s case in a Cotonou court, the Communications Manager for Ilana Omo Oodua, Maxwell Adeleye, said Igboho was not under any immigration probe in Benin Republic.
He said: “We are pleased to inform all Yoruba people and well-wishers that the security operatives in Benin Republic have removed leg chain and handcuffs from Chief Igboho since Saturday evening.
“Chief Igboho’s wife has now been granted access to meet her husband three times daily.
“Medical personnel provided by our legal team have examined Chief Sunday Adeyemo. We reiterate that Chief Igboho is not under any immigration-related probe in Benin Republic.
“Chief Adeyemo will appear in court this morning (yesterday) in Benin Republic to face the likely extradition charges to be brought against him by the Nigerian government.
“We urge supporters from Nigeria not to bother coming to the court premises in Bénin. Kindly stay in Nigeria and support with prayers and whatever you can do, within the ambit of the law. We are confident that Chief Igboho shall be set free.”
Gani Adams rallies Beninese monarchs behind Igboho
Meanwhile, the Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Adams, has rallied 10 prominent Benin Republic monarchs in support of the Yoruba nation agitator.
The monarchs were assigned to play both traditional and fatherly roles in ensuring that Igboho’s right to freedom was protected without abuse or misjudgements.
Adams, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, said it is the duty of the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, and that of other traditional rulers to support Igboho at this trying time, maintaining that the case against Igboho should not be taken with levity.
He said: “I am not comfortable with the way the Federal Government is handling Sunday Igboho’s case and I have made my position known to the world. I have also rallied over ten prominent Yoruba monarchs in the Republic of Benin to discuss the possibility of getting Igboho off the hook and ensure that he regains his freedom unconditionally.
“Going forward, I think we must stand by him because we are all in the struggle for the liberation of our race and whatever happens to Igboho happens to us. And the journey, though, didn’t begin with him, will definitely not end with him, because the agitation for self-determination is our legitimate rights which we are ready to follow through with all our strengths.”
Adams said the move to seek the monarchs’ intervention became imperative because of the sensitive nature of the case, adding that the ten prominent monarchs were in the best position to work with the authorities in Republic of Benin to ensure there was justice for Igboho.
Leading the 10 monarchs in the emergency meeting held for the embattled Yoruba nation agitator was the Alajowun of Ajowun land, Oba Signon Adekilumo.
Others were Alajase of Ajase-Ile, Porto-Novo, Oba Alajase Onikoyi, Onitowe of Towe land, Oba Shitu Adeleke, Ologunba of Ogunba, Oba Adio Ogunju, Oniohorije of Ohori land,Oba Awelede Salomon, Onimasse of Mase land, Oba Akerekoro, Palais Royal de Seme Krake, Sa Majeste Roi de KRAKE, Palais Royal de Ilase, Sa Majeste Roi de Ilase, Oloye R. Oguntosin Taye,the Tolulase of Ajase-Ile Kingdom, Porto-Novo, and Aremo Onikoyi Abesan Keefa Ajase-Ile, among others.
Afenifere warns FG to stop harassing freedom agitators
Also, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, commended the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Oguguniso I, for sending a delegation to Cotonou, Benin Republic, where Mr. Sunday Adeyemo is facing trial.
Adeyemo Igboho is the arrowhead of activists agitating for a Yoruba nation.
Afenifere’s acting Leader and National Publicity Secretary, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and Jare Ajayi, commended the monarch for raising the delegation to be at the court where the Yoruba agitator is being tried in Cotonou.
Afenifere also commended the Ooni of Ife, Oba Eniitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II who, last week, set up the Ooni Caucus meant to work on various issues pertaining to Yoruba interests, including the travails currently faced by Igboho.
In the same vein, it was reported that some kings and Yoruba communities in Benin Republic mobilized in support of Igboho.
They also got applause from Afenifere for ensuring that an Oduduwa son, Igboho, did not suffer unjustly.
Afenifere urged other obas in Yorubaland and other prominent people to emulate the good examples of the Olubadan and Ooni.
The statement read: “It is so sad that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is concentrating on hunting and harassing those who are seeking relief from the oppressive situation in Nigeria, while shying away from tackling the menaces of kidnapping, terrorism and antics bordering on ethnic cleansing.”
On the propriety of Sunday Igboho trying to escape abroad, Afenifere maintained that there was nothing strange or wrong with this, adding that history was replete with conveyors of a new order having to seek refuge outside their immediate environment.
“We recall that Moses had to be taken away from the prying eyes of Pharaoh and his agents in Egypt. Prophet Muhammed (SAW) too had to leave his hometown, Mecca for Medina in order to escape persecution.
“Thus, there is nothing wrong in Igboho seeking respite first to preserve his life and perhaps to re-strategize.”
Afenifere, however, accused the Federal Government of going after freedom agitators, while neglecting those known to be behind terrorism in the country.
“By its conduct, government is giving people reasons to belief the allegation that it is pursuing a Fulanisation agenda. Harassment of freedom agitators and innocent citizens must stop forthwith,” the statement added.
Court orders release of 48 Yoruba nation agitators
Meanwhile, a Lagos Chief Magistrate’s Court, sitting in Yaba, yesterday, revoked the bail of one of the Yoruba Nation agitators, Tajudeen Bakare (the popular Ogboni Chief) after being accused by the Police for the murder of a sachet water hawker, Jumoke Oyeleke, who was killed by a stray bullet during the protest.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, had charged the 48 Yoruba Nation protesters arrested on Saturday, July 3, 2021, at Ojota, Lagos, before a Magistrate Court sitting in Yaba.
Chief Magistrate Adeola Adedayo also ordered that the other 48 suspects who were nabbed at Ojota area of Lagos State, for allegedly participating in Yoruba nation rally, be released after they perfected their bail conditions.
The 49 suspected Yoruba nation protesters are Olasunkanmi Tanimola, Adeleye Oluwafemi, Kabiru Lawanson, Chinemerem Emma-nuel, Rasak Musibau, Lukman Olalade Shared Kareem, Olasanmi Oladipupo, Bashiru Shutu, Lawal Hakeem, Taofeek Abdulsalam, Olamilekan Abata, Abdullahi Sikiru, Tosin Adeleye and Babatunde Lawal.
Others are Oba Tajudeen Bakare, Adeyemi Shegu, Adedayo Adebanjo, Abiodun Adenuga, Bamidele Akomolafe, Akinbounje Sunday, Odumakin Akeem, Babatunde Adeyemi, Samuel Ibe, Agbeniyi Olanrewaju, Adetayo Azeez, Adeshina Ibrahim, Ayomide Akinyemi, Quadri Ishola, Abolarinwa Lateef, Sunday Aremo, Waheed Adebayo, Abdulsalam Lukmon, Apena Dada, Semiu Akanbi, Raji Kabiru, Sulaimon Raji, Olamide Afolabi, Ogungbile Dare, Gbenga Olaniyi and Biodun Oga.
The rest are Adewale Muyiwa, Ogundimu Opeyemi, Ifeoluwa Idowu, Balogun Abiodun Taiwo, Ferg Lasheu, Inadu Balogun, Akintunde Idowu and Dauda Abubakar.
The Magistrate made the order, following an affidavit of urgency and bail application by Chief Raymond Olaiya, who led the defence team of lawyers.
The suspects were granted bail in the sum of N300,000 each, with two sureties in like sum.
The court ordered that one of the sureties must be a traditional ruler or a religious leader and a relative to perfect the bail condition.
According to Adedayo, notwithstanding that the protesters were ordered to be remanded in Police custody pending conclusion of police investigation into the matter, it does not mean they should be starved and kept in inhuman prison conditions.
The protesters allegedly held a rally at Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park on June 12, 202, in propagation of Yoruba Nation agitation.
Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, had alleged that the protesters violated the ban on rally in the state.
The suspects, however, claimed that they were framed up by police. Some of them said they were in transit, adding that they were picked up randomly by the police at Ojota garage which is known to be a major terminal in Lagos.
In the affidavit of urgency, it was stated that the 48 suspects were kept inside a room and starved by the police.
Thereafter, the police, filed an exparte motion, brought pursuant to section 6 and 35 of Constitution and section 4 of police Act and section 267 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to obtain the Court remand order.
Reacting to the development, the Communications Manager of Ilana Omo Oodua, IOO, Maxwell Adeleye, said in a statement: “They were charged for unlawful assembly, unlawful society and conducts likely to cause breach of public peace.
“However, one of the arrested protesters, Tajudeen Bakare (the popular Ogboni Chief) was charged by the Police for the murder of a satchet water hawker, Jumoke Oyeleke, killed by a stray bullet during the protest.
“The bail granted to all the protesters was upheld by the court but that of Bakare was revoked. The court referred Bakare’s case to the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, for further advice.”