Prof Ibrahim Salami, Beninese lead counsel to Yoruba self-determination activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, has opened up on the case against his client before a court of law in Cotonou, Benin Republic, saying reports that Igboho was arrested last Monday night at an airport in Cotonou because he wanted to use Beninese fake international passport to travel to Germany were fake.
In an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Yoruba Service, in Cotonou yesterday, Salami, who also teaches at the University of Benin, said: “First, when Sunday Igboho left Nigeria, he passed through a back route to enter Benin Republic. The route is usually plied by motorcycles.
“Then, he wanted to board aircraft from Cotonou to Germany, with his wife, who lives in Germany with his seven children. When they got to the airport, the police at the airport stopped him on the grounds that the Federal Government of Nigeria wrote a letter to the Government of Benin Republic that if he (Igboho) is in the country, that he should be arrested.
“It was not because he violated any law in Benin. Beninese passport was not found with him. It was a lie that it was found with him. The international passport found in his hand was issued to him by Nigeria. In the Nigerian passport, he has a German residence card. With that, he doesn’t need visa again to travel to Germany with his wife. So, it was based on this (the letter written against him by the Nigerian government) that the two of them were arrested.”
Salami stated further that there is no accord of extradition between Nigeria and Benin Republic, adding that in the case before the Beninese court, Nigeria has not asked that Igboho be extradited.
He, however, made it known that the letter that was written to Benin Republic by Nigeria was based on three allegations against Igboho and the three allegations are the ones before the Beninese court.
According to him, the first allegation bordered on gunrunning and stockpiling of arms to cause war in Nigeria, the second inciting people to destabilise Nigeria while the third allegation had to do with a purported move by Igboho to break up Nigeria into two or three countries.
“But we told the court that the allegations are fake,” Salami declared, adding that trials in Beninese courts usually followed three stages, namely, with the prosecutor, a judge that will investigate the case and the judge that will determine whether the accused person should be put in prison custody or not, pending the determination of the case.
“What we the legal team are concerned about is that he has not violated any law in Benin Republic. If he was arrested, it was because of the letter that the Nigerian government wrote. Before he could be extradited, there must be proofs that he violated laws in Nigeria. Presently, there is no proof….”
Salami explained that the first stage with the prosecutor was completed last Thursday, saying he was optimistic that the other two stages would also be completed tomorrow (Monday), pointing out that the five-man legal team defending Igboho prayed the court that Igboho’s wife, Ropo, be discharged and acquitted because she did not commit any offence.
“When we got to the first station, we discovered that there were charges against both Igboho and his wife. Then, we said the wife’s case should be expunged from the litigation because the wife did not participate in the activism with her husband. If the wife had broken any law, it is because she is a wife to the activist. You cannot arrest a son for an offence committed by his father or mother. Whoever that broke the law should be punished. So, there was no case against her. So, she was freed and her international passport was returned to her. I signed and she also signed for it. She has no case with Benin Republic again.”
On the allegation that Igboho was chained like a dog at the police station in Cotonou, where he was being detained, Salami explained that Igboho was neither beaten nor tortured, saying his legs were not also chained but that he was handcuffed.
“What the police did that was wrong, which we don’t do in Benin Republic, is handcuffing him in the police custody, where he was locked up. This made eating difficult for him, and to ease himself in the toilet was also difficult. He had to be assisted by other persons if he wanted to go to the toilet, clean up his body and eat,” Salami explained.
“We tried our best. I am not only a practising lawyer. I am also a a lecturer, a professor in the University of Benin, where I teach law. We do teach our students that human rights will not allow us to do that. Then, we called the attention of the police chief and the prosecutor to the treatment. But as I am talking to you, if he is still being handcuffed, it is wrong.”
On how he was arrested, Salami stated that Igboho and his wife came to the airport in Cotonou and passed through all formalities, adding that their luggage had been packed into the aircraft, and that they already got the tickets to fly to Germany, noting that “when (however) it was time for boarding, they presented their passports at the police station at the airport (and) it’s like their names had been in the computer before their arrival.”
“Then, the policemen on duty called the Brigade Cadets that arrested them and they (Igboho and wife) were taken to Brigade Cadets’ office in Cotonou,” Salami surmised.