A court in Benin has ordered the transfer of a Nigerian separatist leader detained in the country from a police detention facility to a prison.
Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Ibojo, was accused of entering the country illegally and planning to cause trouble, but he denied the allegations.
Last week, he was arrested at the Benin airport at the request of Nigeria.
But since his arrest, the Nigerian authorities have remained silent and have not made a formal extradition request.
Instead, he is now under investigation by criminal organizations there in Benin and appeared in court for the second time in Cotonou on Monday.
Why was he caught in Benin?
A week ago, he and his wife were arrested in Benin. She has now been released.
According to reports, they went to Germany and his wife was a German citizen.
Nigeria accused Adeyemo of hoarding weapons, calling for the secession of the country and inciting genocide.
But his supporters say he is a political prisoner and he was persecuted for defending Yoruba who were attacked by some Fulani herders.
Why did he leave Nigeria?
In early July, the Nigerian secret police raided his home, resulting in the killing of two of his associates, after which he fled the country.
The other 12 people arrested in the raid were not taken to court.
Nigeria has been fighting separatist activists in recent weeks. In late June, Nnamdi KanuThose who wanted to separate Biafra State in the southeast were detained in Nigeria.
He was arrested in an unnamed foreign country and taken back to Nigeria.
His lawyer stated that he was kidnapped in Kenya and tortured there, but the local authorities denied these allegations.
Can he be extradited from Benin?
Mr. Adeyemo’s legal team stated that Nigeria hoped that their client would be extradited quickly when Cotonou was arrested. They said that a private jet was filled with fuel and was about to take him across the border.
But unlike Mr. Kanu’s case, the Beninese authorities have stepped in.
In 1984, the extradition treaty between Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana, the neighboring countries of West Africa, excluded people wanted for political reasons.
Mr. Adejemo’s representative argued that he falls into this category because his autonomy requirements are protected by the Charter of the African Union (AU).
In addition, Nigeria and Benin are part of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which is a regional institution with far-reaching laws on trade and legal affairs.
According to the ECOWAS extradition convention that is binding on Benin, member states must make a request to list the crimes of suspects wanted in their own countries.
Only the court can decide on an extradition request.
But is there an extradition request?
But Nigeria was accused of trying to force its smaller neighboring West Africa to release Mr. Adeyemo without filing a lawsuit in court.
The well-known Nigerian lawyer Femi Falana told the BBC that the Nigerian Embassy wrote a letter to the Beninese authorities requesting the extradition of Mr. Adejemo. But this is not part of the legal process.
“The Nigerian government has made a request outside of the law,” he said.
He believes that Nigeria, which dwarfs Benin in terms of scale and economy, is trying to use its political influence to get the suspect back.
What is the relationship between Nigeria and Benin?
The two countries share a border, and Nigeria unilaterally closed the border in August 2019, accusing its smaller neighbors of encouraging the smuggling of contraband into the country.
The border closure caused waves in West Africa, forcing Benin’s President Patric Talon to visit the Nigerian capital of Abuja, calling for a reopening.
The border was closed until the beginning of this year.
Mr. Farana also believes that Mr. Adeyemo’s case proves that Nigeria has a lot to learn from its smaller neighbors on human rights issues.
“The wife who was arrested with him was released by the court because there was no case against her,” Mr. Farana said.
He contrasted this with the situation in Nigeria, where 12 people were arrested in the attack on Mr. Adeyemo’s home and they were not taken to court for a few weeks.
Who is Adeyemo on Sunday?
Mr. Adeyemo made his first national notoriety when he used Nigeria’s Independence Day last October to call for an independent Yoruba Republic, although his ideas were widely ridiculed.
But after he pushed himself into the core of one of the country’s deadliest conflicts-the conflict between Fulani herders and other groups over land and grazing rights, he became a national figure.
After a politician was killed in January, Mr. Adeyemo felt that he had seen enough. He asked Fulani herders from northern Nigeria to leave the southwest, which was regarded as the home of the Yoruba tribe, for their sake. All the alleged crimes.
The Nigerian authorities stated that his actions led to the killings in the southwest of the country, but Mr. Adeyemo denied these allegations and stated that he was wanted for calling for autonomy.
His supporters called him a hero, but his opponents called him a dangerous instigator and accused him of inciting national hatred and killing.