The diplomatic process that will ensure the extradition of suspected looters who have fled the country will dominate President Muhammadu Buhari’s discussions with his counterparts when 60 world leaders meet in the United Kingdom next month.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that the President would at the summit explore ways of bringing to the country politicians who were being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
It was gathered that the outcome of the summit would speed up the extradition of individuals, including a former Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro; a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu; and a former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Others are the ex-Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke; her son, Ugonna; and a former Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko, whose house was raided in Abuja in January by the EFCC.
Also included are a former Senior Political Adviser to ex-President and Coordinator of Goodluck Support Group, Prof. Rufai Alkali, who coordinated the disbursement of N320m allegedly collected from the Central Bank of Nigeria during the 2015 elections and the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, who is being allegedly investigated over $1.1bn Malabu Oil deal.
While Obanikoro, who is believed to be in the United States, is wanted in connection with the alleged payment of N1.45bn to his companies, Muazu is reportedly wanted over disbursement of funds to PDP zonal chairmen. He was reported to be in Singapore.
Alison-Madueke and her son are being investigated for N2.3bn disbursed to some staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission through Fidelity Bank before the 2015 general elections.
While the former minister is in the UK, the whereabouts of her son is unknown.
Findings revealed that some of the pacts that would be signed by the world leaders at the summit would pave the way for the extradition of those who were being investigated.
A senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said at the sideline of the summit, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, would meet with law-enforcement agencies from 59 other countries.
The senior official said, “The Federal Government is determined to bring politicians, who are under investigations, but have fled the country. The summit will afford the EFCC and the Ministry of Justice the opportunity of discussing how those guys will be interrogated for the offences they have allegedly committed.”
Efforts to get the attorney-general and minister of justice did not succeed on Friday as he did not pick calls to his mobile telephone or respond to an SMS sent to him as of the time of sending this report.
But a source in the Ministry of Justice confirmed to one of our correspondents that Malami would be attending the London conference.
The source said, “Though it is a conference of heads of state, the minister will attend with the President since it has to do with corruption.
“You can also not rule out the fact that there may be the need to sign one agreement or the other with some other nations. In that regard, the President needs the AGF to be with him.”
The AGF had, in an interview on Friday last week, said that the Federal Government and 59 other countries would sign agreement on the sanctions to be imposed on corrupt political and public office holders.
According to him, the sanctions will include travel restriction or denial of entry visa into the 60 countries; rejection of requests for political asylum by corrupt political and public office holders; likely loss of citizenship; non-approval of naturalisation for any corrupt person; stoppage of establishment of shell companies abroad; and banning operation of foreign accounts in any of the 60 nations.
He had said, “The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is stepping up the fight against corruption. I am happy to bring to your notice that Nigeria and 59 other countries will enter into an agreement in May on the imposition of international sanctions against corrupt political and public office holders. This will take place at the 2016 international summit on anti-corruption in the UK.
“At the May summit, these 60 countries will agree on some sanctions against those who steal public funds or launder money.
“Some of these measures are travel restriction or denial of entry into the 60 countries; rejection of request for political asylum by corrupt political and public officers; no more approval of application for naturalisation by any corrupt person; and the corrupt will not be allowed to operate foreign accounts in any of the signatory nation to the pact, among others.
“The affected countries will also design ways of sharing intelligence on corrupt officers and money launderers. We will all key into this understanding as part of the global action against corruption. “With this development, there is no hiding place for any public office holder who steals funds in this country.”
EFCC could confiscate assets of escaped offenders –Ex-envoy
Commenting on efforts of the Federal Government to extradite escaped suspects, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Angola, Otunba Folorunso Otukoya, said that EFCC could apply to a court for the seizure of assets belonging to Nigerians accused of embezzling public funds.
The retired diplomat also said that the agency could apply for the extradition of fugitives from their countries of residence so they could come and face trial for their alleged offences.
Otukoya explained that Nigeria has extradition treaties with a number of countries which could be exploited to bring back escaped offenders to the country for prosecution.
He said, “There are many mechanisms for getting someone who is wanted: one, if you have extradition treaty with the country where he has run to. You would make a formal appeal to the government through a court process and he would be handed over to that government and they too would have a system of how to arrive at whether the person should be extradited.
“Other measures may be to impound his assets here through a court order whereby the person could come back and prove his innocence. You can also use diplomatic means to persuade the country of residence of the suspect that he will be given a fair trial; you will assure them that the suspect’s human rights will not be abused.
“That government may assist by encouraging the person to leave their country, not by extradition, but by encouraging him to leave after his visa had expired or they refuse to renew his residency in the country.”
The ex-envoy, however, noted that it may be difficult to extradite a fugitive in a country with which Nigeria has no extradition treaty.
Otukoya said, “Where there is no extradition treaty, it is difficult to persuade another government to send home a fugitive or offender, but if he had been found guilty by a competent court of law in our country, we can use a friendly nation to persuade that country to assist us to get the fellow to come back, but he will not be physically or forcefully extradited.”
A security analyst, Lt. Sola Oremade (retd.) stated that EFCC could explore a wide range of options to bring escaped offenders to justice, “if they are serious and know what they are doing.”
He said the constitution stipulated measures, including legal and diplomatic options that could be taken against offenders and fugitives, stressing that it was important that the commission adhere to the rule of law in its operations.
Oremade said the anti-graft agency might be handicapped if offenders had escaped to countries that had no extradition with Nigeria.
He said, “If they (suspects) have escaped to countries that have no extradition treaty with Nigeria, there is nothing they (EFCC) can do to bring them back, they have to follow the law, you can’t go against the law in Germany, England or Canada.
“You can’t try to kidnap the suspect as they tried to do to Umaru Dikko in the 80s. You have to follow the law, do the right thing and show you are responsible. The other countries will cooperate with us if they see that we are following due process.”
Any anti-corruption summit is of interest to Nigeria –Presidency
When contacted, the Presidency on Friday said any summit on corruption in any part of the world would naturally be of interest to Nigeria because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption stand.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this in an interview with our correspondent.
Adesina was responding to a question on the benefit of an anti-corruption summit of 60 world leaders which Buhari would be attending in the UK on May 11 and 12.
Although the presidential spokesman said all the questions raised by our correspondent would be addressed when the trip is officially announced, he said Nigeria would naturally be a participant at that kind of summit because of Buhari’s reputation.
He said, “These issues (on the benefits of the planned trip) will be addressed when the trip is officially announced.
“It may be premature to begin to talk about them now.
“Suffice to say, however, that any summit on corruption in any part of the world today would have Nigeria as a key participant, because of the zero tolerance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration for graft, and the reputation of the President himself as a man of probity, integrity and transparency.”