The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has said it will push for the arrest of Senator Buruji Kashamu as the agency says it has been “emboldened and strengthened” by the latest ruling of a United States court, which ruled that the senator must face drug charges.
On Friday, The PUNCH reported that a US appeal court upheld the ruling against Kashamu, who is facing drug charges related to the hit TV show, “Orange is the New Black.”
With the ruling, the Senator, representing Ogun East Senatorial District, could be extradited to face trial in the US court.
The NDLEA also stated that it would ensure that orders stopping the arrest of the senator were vacated in a bid to pave the way for his extradition.
It further noted that it would not undermine the extradition agreement that Nigeria had with the US with respect to the case involving Kashamu, adding that the federal lawmaker must go to the US and clear his name.
The Head, Public Affairs, NDLEA, Mr. Mitchell Ofoyeju, told one of our correspondents in an interview on Sunday that the agency had a legal treaty with the US and would not compromise this agreement for any reason.
Asked to state the specific steps to be taken by the NDLEA on Kashamu with respect to the injunctions he obtained against the agency and considering the latest US court ruling, Ofoyeju said, “Already, there are actions ongoing to vacate those orders. So it is now important for us to pursue those actions to a conclusion because we now have a better ground to vacate those orders. And these are injunctions that he got restraining us from picking him up.
“You know that this development is a good reason for us to vacate those orders that he is not to be arrested.”
He stated that based on the latest US court ruling, the agency’s position had been “emboldened and strengthened and we will push for the vacation of every injunction stopping us.”
Ofoyeju added, “When those (restraining) orders are cleared, then we can go ahead with the extradition case. There is no point filing another one. The case that was filed is still in court. It is just that there are orders preventing that case and these orders need to be cleared so that the coast will be clear.”
On claims that the NDLEA had given up on Kashamu, the agency’s spokesperson declared, “No way, that is not true! We have not given up, but we don’t want to violate court orders. We will seek legal means and this case has emboldened our case here in Nigeria.”
Emphasising on the treaty between the US and the anti-drugs peddling agency, the NDLEA spokesperson said, “We have a legal treaty with the US on extradition, although his (Kashamu) case could be seen as an exception. We are going to respect the rule of law, but at the same time, we will ensure that whoever has a case to answer should be made to answer it within the ambits of the law.
“On the exceptionality of his case, he is a distinguished Senator and so our legal team will come up with the best legal option for him to clear himself because of the mutual legal agreement that we have with the US.
“The case is a very sensitive one because he is a serving Senator; but then, we have a mutual agreement with the US on things like this. It is an allegation, but let him go and clear himself.”
He stated that the Senator had secured an injunction, restraining the NDLEA from arresting him, but noted that the agency’s legal team was studying the cases against Kashamu both in Nigeria and in the US.
Ofoyeju said, “The court in the US has ruled and back home here, he has secured an injunction that he should not be arrested. So our legal team is currently studying the case, both the one in the US and the one in Nigeria. This is in order to know the next legal line of action, because he must clear himself. That is the position.
“So, as it is now we are going to look at the best legal action to take in order for his right not to be violated because he is a distinguished senator of the federal republic. However, at the same time, all necessary measures will be exploited for him to clear himself of whatever allegations that have been brought against him in the US.”
Chicago prosecutors had accused the Senator of heading a heroin trafficking ring in the 1990s.
Kashamu had, in April, 2015, asked a district court to put a hold on his “abduction abroad by US authorities.”
But in its ruling last Monday, the US court of appeal dismissed the complaint and upheld the ruling of the lower court.
The court said the attempt by US agents to arrest Kashamu in coordination with Nigerian authorities could not be termed “an attempted abduction.”
Many of those indicted in the case had pleaded guilty but Kashamu had maintained that his late brother was responsible for the crimes he was being accused of.
He said the 1998 indictment by a grand jury in Chicago for conspiracy to import and distribute heroin in the US was a case of mistaken identity, adding that the prosecutors really wanted a dead brother, who closely resembled him.
The court dismissed the complaint, and the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling Monday, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
It said the US agents’ attempt to arrest Kashamu in coordination with local authorities would not constitute “an attempted abduction.”
The NDLEA in May, 2015, attempted to arrest Kashamu, then a Senator-elect, in connection with the heroin deal.
He was placed under house arrest at his Lagos home.
He instituted a suit at a Federal High Court in Lagos to prevent attempts to extradite him.
Justices Okon Abang and Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos, in separate judgments on May 27 and June 8 respectively, barred the NDLEA from extraditing Kashamu to the US.
In deference to the two judgments, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Abuja Division of the court, on July 1, equally dismissed an application by the NDLEA, praying for an order to extradite Kashamu.
Kashamu had, on May 4, 2015, pre-emptively sued the NDLEA, AGF and others before Justice Abang, seeking to restrain them from arresting and extraditing him.
The judge heard the case on May 8, 2015, during which the NDLEA, AGF and other defendants denied making any move to arrest Kashamu and urged Justice Abang to dismiss the suit for being speculative and showing no reasonable cause of action.
After hearing the case on May 8, Justice Abang reserved his judgment till May 27, 2015.
But between May 23 and 25, 2015, operatives of the NDLEA laid siege to Kashamu’s house in Lekki, Lagos, wanting to arrest him, for the purpose of extraditing him to the US.
Kashamu, however, locked himself in and refused to turn himself over for arrest.
He later commenced contempt proceedings against the NDLEA, AGF and others before Justice Buba, alleging that the move to arrest him would be prejudicial to Justice Abang’s judgment, which was reserved for May 27, 2015.
Justice Buba agreed with Kashamu’s lawyer, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), and ordered the NDLEA operatives to vacate Kashamu’s house.
Justice Abang later delivered his judgment on May 27, 2015, barring the NDLEA, AGF and others from arresting and extraditing Kashamu.
The judgment was later affirmed on June 8, 2015 by Justice Buba, who held that Kashamu could not be extradited unless Justice Okon Abang’s judgment was set aside by the Court of Appeal.
The then Attorney of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), approached Justice Kolawole in Abuja, seeking a warrant for Kashamu’s arrest.
But in his judgment on July 1, 2015, Justice Kolawole said he was unable to grant the AGF’s request because of the two earlier judgments of Justices Abang and Buba, which had barred the FG from extraditing Kashamu.
“In conclusion, I am unable to exercise my jurisdiction pursuant to sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Extradition Act Cap E25 to accede to the application to issue a warrant to effect the arrest of the respondent for the reason, which I have analysed in this ruling, because the orders made by Justices Abang and Buba of the Federal High Court, sitting in the Lagos Judicial Division, have not been appealed against by the applicant or have been set aside by the appellate court,” Justice Kolawole held.