Nigerian Police Flouts Court Order on Illegal Extradition of American Suspect
Legal and diplomatic circles in Lagos are baffled by the unfolding drama involving the Nigerian police, the American FBI, the Nigerian judiciary and an American businessmen the United States government wants to try over the Willbros scandal. Now the defense lawyer in the case is alerting the public of pending illegal extradition of the suspect.
James Kenneth Tillery, CEO of an oil service firm, was arrested by the police in Lagos on 13 August 2010, acting on an Interpol “Red Notice’’ No. A-2996/69-009, by which the Government of the United States of America requested for his arrest with a view to extradition. Two days later FBI operatives attempted to whisk him out of Nigeria but immigration officers at the international airport refused to let him leave Nigeria without traveling documents. Tillery returned to the custody of the Nigerian police, and he remains in detention.
Tillery challenged his arrest and attempted extradition at the Federal High Court, Lagos. On 31 August 2010, the court ruled that the arrest was illegal and unconstitutional. The court also decided that the extradition attempt did not comply with the provisions of the Extradiction Act of Nigeria. The court therefore awarded damages of N10 million in favour of Tillery and ordered the police to release him forthwith.
The police has refused to comply with this order, allegedly on the prompting of the FBI which wants Tillery, a naturalised Nigerian, to remain in detention until they can find a way to extradite him. Three letters of complaint from Tillery’s lawyers to the Attorney-General of the Federation, alerting him to the non-compliance with court orders by the police have received no response, and Tillery has sought and received leave of court to commence contempt proceedings against the Inspector-General of Police.
While seeking the restoration of Tillery’s liberty, his lawyers are also pursuing his challenge to the American government’s extradition request at the Federal High Court, Abuja. Tillery is asking the court to restrain the Attorney-General of Federation, the Minister of Interior, the Inspector-General of Police and the Comptroller-General of Immigration from giving effect to any extradition move. The court has issued an interim restraining order against the respondents, but they were not in court at the resumed hearing on 11 November 2010. Tillery’s friends and lawyers fear that the serial violation of Nigeria’s sovereignty in his case will not stop until the FBI succeeds in illegally removing him from Nigeria.
Lawyers and diplomatic sources are intrigued by the reluctance of the American government to patiently await the conclusion of legal processes to secure the extradition of Tillery. But they are perplexed by the willingness of the Nigerian police to violate court orders and ignore Tillery’s fundamental human rights, and the reluctance of the Nigeria’s chief law officer to intervene on the side of the law. They point out that Nigeria as a sovereign state has a law that regulates the extradition of any fugitive. The law is contained in the Extradition Act CAP E26 LFN 2004 and the most relevant sections of the Act at this stage are sections 6 and 7 of the Act. The provision of the Extradition Act applies to any citizen who is within the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
No court of law in Nigeria issued any warrant for the arrest of Mr. Tillery nor was the Nigerian Extradition Act complied with. But after the failure of what his lawyers, Tayo Oyetibo & Co., describe as an attempted kidnapping from the shores of Nigeria, the police authorities kept Tillery chained to his hospital bed even as he was receiving medical treatment approved by a court.
Written by Kunle Baba, Lagos