Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Nigerian Government, which has been mum on the issue, sent representatives to court on, Thursday and accused Igboho of importing firearms.
The source told Saturday PUNCH, “The Nigerian Government has made attempts to get him (Igboho) but Benin Republic didn’t release him. The Nigerian Government has requested him but the Beninese Government has not released him because the latter has not even identified him as a Nigerian.
“The only instrument they can use to identify him as a Nigerian is the passport, but that is not what was found on him.”
The source added, “The Nigerian Government was in court on Thursday through its legal representatives. They demanded that Igboho be remanded pending the time the government would file proper documents for his extradition. The Nigerian government told the court that Igboho is a gunrunner and appealed to the court to remand Igboho until further notice.
“Nothing is happening on extradition for now because the priority case for the Benin Republic is that he is alleged to have committed an offence against their law. So, they can’t hold any extradition hearing until they get to the root of the matter on how he got the Benin Republic passport.
“I am suspecting that even if the court orders his release, he will be rearrested because of the Nigerian Government’s accusation that he is a gunrunner.”
Also, the Akintoye-led group in its statement said, “What Nigerian Government came up with were mere allegations against Ighoho such as trafficking in arms and inciting violence that could result in social disturbance without evidence, which the Government of Benin Republic considered spurious and untenable, and insufficient to warrant extradition.”
When contacted, a member of Igboho’s legal team, Pelumi Olajengbesi, declined comments on the case of his client and the details of the court hearing on Thursday. The lawyer, however, told Saturday PUNCH that the team was hopeful that the court would grant Igboho bail and won’t extradite the activist illegally to Nigeria.
When asked whether Igboho would get bail in court, the lawyer simply told our correspondent, “We are hopeful.”
Olajengbesi restated his conviction that Benin Republic had shown itself to be a country that respects the rule of law and due process.
“The disposition of Benin Republic is that it is a country that respects the rule of law. We are making efforts that he is not repatriated wrongly to Nigeria. We are ensuring that everything is done in accordance with the law and we are very hopeful that we would succeed,” he stressed.
Reacting to the forgery allegation against his client, Olajengbesi said, “Igboho is in the spotlight now and people can come up with allegations. There can be issues of facts, or mis-facts anywhere but no charge has been officially brought against Igboho by the court. Until there is charge against him and investigation to prove that he is found guilty or innocent, every other thing anyone is saying is baseless.”
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Salami, a counsel for Igboho, has said that the rights activist was arrested with Nigerian and German passports.
This is contrary to claims that Igboho was tried for possessing a Beninese passport despite not being a citizen of the country.
Salami told BBC Yoruba, “It is not true that the Benin Republic passport was found on Sunday Igboho when he was arrested.
“What was found on him were Nigerian and German passports. His wife had only her German passport on her at the point of arrest.”
Meanwhile, reports have indicated that Igboho may face 21 years’ imprisonment over the Beninese passport he allegedly tendered before his aborted trip.
Although it officially denied it, the Nigeria Immigration Service had reportedly on July 9 placed Igboho on a stop-list.
NIS alerted the Nigeria Police, the DSS and the National Intelligence Agency that he was making efforts to acquire a new Nigerian passport as part of plans to flee the country.
As the authorities uncovered his strategy, Igboho, it was gathered, allegedly made arrangements for a Beninese passport.
Expressing fear over the fate of Igboho, a lawmaker in Benin, identified as Tolulase, in an interview with the BBC Yoruba, said the situation was not looking good for the agitator.
The legislator explained that although Benin is a small country, laws are strictly enforced there.
He said, “On this passport issue, take me for instance, I’m from Benin but married to an Ijebu woman from Nigeria. We have five kids. She gave birth to two in Nigeria, three in Benin.
“Only the three have Beninese passports, the two others and my wife do not have. She can only apply if we married legally in Benin.
“Even after the court wedding, the passport is not issued immediately. She will wait for some years and must go through the processes.
“The first thing you must have is the National Identity Card. Now, if you’re not a citizen, the only way you can get a passport is if you legally marry a Beninoise.
“You can see it’s not easy. So, if you procure a fake one, you’ll be uncovered because you don’t have a National Identity Card. The details are linked.
“The card must have a family name. About three to five of your relatives must confirm to the government that they know you and your early years.
“It is after they testify that the court will issue the card, which can then be used to apply for a passport. If such is doctored, the punishment is 21 years’ imprisonment. It’s a serious offence.
“And it’s not just the owner of the fake passport that will be prosecuted; all those who know about it will be charged to court.
“On Chief Sunday Igboho, the Beninese Government will carry out a detailed investigation that will expose everyone involved in his passport obtainment.”