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What Doesn’t The NDLEA Understand About Due Process? By Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

No one is suggesting that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) should be prevented from carrying out its statutory duties. No one! What has been suggested, and what is being suggested, is that such duties should be carried out within the framework of the law. In essence, due process must be followed. 

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We cannot have an agency that suddenly wakes up from several years of inactivity and disorganization and then decides, in a jiffy, to shoot in the dark -- or act as if they are above the law. This is what we have witnessed in the last couple of weeks. 

Really, what doesn’t the NDLEA understand about the rule of law, court order and human and civil rights?  What is it trying to demonstrate? That after several years of timidity and cesspool politics, it found some Cojones? 

The agency has been yakking and barking about Mr. Buruji Kashamu being “a target of both the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security for over 20 years and was further indicted by the Grand Jury in the Northern District of Illinois, United States on heroin trafficking charges.” 

Ok! But when was the first time authorities in the US informed Nigeria about Kashamu? When was the indictment transmitted to the Nigerian government? Why was nothing tangible done in the early years? Perhaps the agency sat on his file because inducements changed hands. Now that the accused allegedly offended some deities, they’ve decided to “give him up, teach him a lesson.” 

The fact is that I am not opposed to internationally issued arrest warrants or extradition treaties and obligations. No! What’s vexing me is the manner in which the NDLEA is going about it. Attempting an Extraordinary Rendition in order to please the US government – and or to demonstrate to the incoming administration that they are atop of things – is not the right way to go.  At the very least, such an approach is unethical. But more than anything else, it is a clear example of illegality and personalization of the rule of law. This we cannot and must not tolerate. 

Indeed, the application for extradition may be tenable. However, as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Buruji Kashamu has the right to go to court to challenge it. After all, the warrant may be improperly issued or may have any number of faults. That’s up to the Nigerian courts to decide. What’s more, I doubt if there is a law that says the accused must show up – show up in the US -- to confront his accusers. 

The way I see it, his attorneys may have advised him not to go to the US to confront his accusers. His refusal to willingly board a plane to the US is not and cannot be seen as an admission of guilt. Perception is not the same as the law. 

Amongst other things, Kashamu has said that (a) he has never been to the US; and (b) that this is purely a case of mistaken identity. Well, he may be lying. He may be telling the truth. How do we know what the truth is? Other than a retraction from him, the Courts are there to make such a determination.  But to bypass the courts and ship him to the US is not the way to go. 

No western government takes the extradition of their citizens lightly. None! And so I do not think that the Nigerian government should get into the habit of exiling its citizens. I also do not think that the Nigerian public should get into the habit of passing judgement based solely on what the government or the media is reporting. From my vantage point, the vast majority of the reading public seems to believe that Buruji Kashamu is guilty. How did they arrive at this conclusion? 

Media houses like The Punch newspaper are reporting that the NDLEA “has kicked against a court order mandating it to withdraw its officials” from Kashamu’s home. The court order is based on the fact that attempts to arrest the accused are “sub judice…the agency did not follow due process. “  In other words: follow the law, follow due process. 

The agency is resisting court order because, as it said, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court Lagos is preventing it “from performing its statutory functions;” and in the process labelled the court’s order “trivial.” What is so trivial about the need to follow due process?

I suggest Justice Buba hold the agency in contempt. I suggest he throw the head of the NDLEA in jail, and fine the organization $10,000 daily for every single day they lay siege on Kashamu’s homes, harass him, threaten or abridge his human and civil rights.  

You cannot have a stable, robust and vibrant democracy without a stable, robust and vibrant judiciary. No one is above the law. No one can or should be above the law. Judicial orders must be obeyed at all times. At all times! No exception. If the NDLEA is not happy with Justice Ibrahim Buba, they too can go to court to challenge his pronouncements. But for now, his orders must be obeyed. 

We wouldn’t have gotten to this point if we had a competent government. A twenty years old arrest warrant? We wouldn’t have gotten to this point if some elements within the previous governments had not played politics with such a sensitive matter. We wouldn’t have gotten to this point if the rich, the powerful and the influential were not personalizing the law. Ironically, Buruji Kashamu was one of them; and so too was Obasanjo, Jonathan, Bode George and many of those interested in shipping the accused abroad.

 

Sabella Abidde can be reached at: [email protected] He is also on Facebook