Back in the day when I was in Law School in America, one of my favorite professors used to repeatedly tell us that there’s a fine line between good legal research and investigative journalism. He told us that one day we would find it useful, as legal practitioners, to remove the garb of a lawyer and adorn that of an investigative journalist. And that it might pay off.
Recently, I remembered the erudite professor and decided to indulge myself in a little bit of investigative journalism (of the internet kind) and my topic of interest was, you guessed it: extraordinary rendition — the abominable legal concept that is currently generating quantum public interest in Nigeria. On a hunch, I zeroed in on official Nigeria.
In due course, my hunch paid off. In particular, I discovered that Nigeria’s chief law officer, attorney-general Abubakar Malami (SAN), has long had a secret connection with extraordinary rendition in more ways than one.
Below are the details:
In 2016, the ‘United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’ published a scholarly project document in a 691-page colorful compendium, titled ‘Cases and Materials on Extradition in Nigeria’. The highly celebrated publication was accomplished with the assistance of the European Union, the federal high court and several lawyers from the office of the attorney-general of the federation.
The highly collaborative project comprised of learned jurists who pivoted on ‘extradition’ and its garden varieties, including particularly ‘extraordinary rendition’ which the compendium discussed with evident disapproval.
AGF Malami, who had endorsed the project, wrote in the foreword to the published compendium that: “The compendium consists of constitutional provisions, legislation, subsidiary legislation, judicial pronouncements treaties and other international instruments on extradition as they relate to Nigeria.”
This is how Malami’s negative connection with extraordinary rendition started. But this is the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg lies in the introduction to the compendium, which I shall hereunder reproduce, verbatim.
Now, read on: “It is easy to confuse extradition with rendition. Rendition is a general term for all procedures, including extradition, for returning wanted persons or aliens generally, from a State. Unlawful or irregular forms of returning persons wanted for trial or punishment include abduction and the so called ‘extraordinary rendition’.
“Extraordinary rendition is a government sponsored arrest, kidnap and abductions of persons wanted, accused or convicted of a criminal offence either to the state who sponsored the arrest, kidnap or abduction or to a willing third party state.
“Extraordinary rendition denies a person of the right to challenge his transfer to the requesting or receiving state. It involves the violation of the principles of international law especially where the persons transferred are subjected to torture or sham criminal charges or trials.
“The ‘Dikko Affair’ of 1984 is an example of an attempt at unlawful rendition. After a coup d’état in 1983, the Federal Military Government of Nigeria requested the British government to surrender Umaru Dikko, a former Minister alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices.
“Before the British government responded to the request, an intelligence officer from the Nigerian security forces with three Israeli nationals abducted Mr. Dikko and attempted to cargo him to Nigeria in a crate. This attempt was foiled by the British security apparatus, the abductors were jailed and the relationship between Nigeria and Britain became strained.
“Even though not successful, it was an attempt by Nigeria to go against the international norms in expressing its political will.”
In concluding his foreword to the compendium, Malami stated that: “It is a very good resource material on extradition and it is therefore my pleasure to recommend the Cases and Materials on Extradition in Nigeria to all and sundry, for use in identifying the position of extradition law in Nigeria.”
Malami did not stop there. He underscored his abiding commitment to the due process of extradition, as opposed to the illegality and abomination of extraordinary rendition by deploying some of the finest lawyers in the federal ministry of justice (his office) to the project.
Not done, Malami went on to profusely thank the United Nations “for its technical support to the Federal Ministry of Justice for the review of laws, development of policy instruments and capacity building for staff of the Ministry in extradition law-related areas”.
And there, dear readers, is how much attorney-general Malami loved extradition and hated extraordinary rendition until 19th June, 2021.
Think about it.
Aloy Ejimakor, a lawyer, can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org