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FG Seeks Court's Permission To Extradite Nigerian To Netherlands Over Human Trafficking

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SAN FRANCISCO, May 28, (THEWILL) â€' The move to extradite a Nigerian, Kingsley Edegbe, to The Netherlands has begun at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Based on the request of The Netherlands for the extradition, the Federal Government has asked the court for permission to extradite Edegbe to The Netherlands for prosecution over human trafficking â€' related offences and allegedly belonging to an international syndicate which specialises in trafficking girls to that country for prostitution.

In the extradition application filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke (SAN), the Federal Government said its request was based on the demand from the Diplomatic Representative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Nigeria.

Noting that a six-count charge had been filed against Edegbe at The Netherlands' District Court of Zwolle by the country's National Crime Squad Team, North and East Netherlands Unit, the Federal Government tendered documents, including reports of investigations into the alleged activities of Edegbe and his group to support its application.

According to the Federal Government, if successfully extradited, Edegbe would face charges bordering on human trafficking, human smuggling, falsification of travel documents, forgery of travel documents, abduction of minors from the authority having legal custody over them and participating in a criminal organisation.

The alleged offences are said to be punishable by deprivation of liberty of more than one year and covered by Articles 3, 5 and 16 of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (TOC Convention), which Nigeria signed and ratified with its protocol on December 9 and 14, 2004.

Edegbe , according to the supporting documents, is particularly wanted in connection with the trafficking of about six Nigerian girls, aged 25 from Nigeria to The Netherlands between 2006 and 2007.

The documents noted that Edegbe 'is responsible for the organisation of human trafficking activities in Nigeria, which include recruiting minor girls victims, providing accommodation to the young women preparatory to their trip to Europe, providing the girls with false travel documents and forcing them to undergo a voodoo ritual, as a result of which they are compelled to do what the organisation wanted them to do.'

On Tuesday, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Muslim Hassan, asked the court to grant the application in accordance with the provisions of the Extradition Act, Cap E25 Laws of the Federation 2004.

He argued that the Federal Government was obligated under the TOC Convention, to accede to the request of The Netherlands' authorities because both countries had signed and ratified the Convention.

Maintaining that there ought not to be a separate Extradition Treaty between the country and The Netherlands before such extradition request could be granted, Hassan argued that, as against the contention of Edegbe's lawyer, Victor Ebonka, the provisions of Section 12 of the Constitution and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Act had sufficiently domesticated the TOC Convention in the country.

He therefore urged the court to grant the request and surrender Edegbe to enable him stand trial in The Netherlands for the charges brought against him.

However, Ebonka, in opposing the Federal Government's extradition application, urged the court to turn it down, saying the court cannot order the extradition of his client because the country has not met the requirement.

Contending that there was no valid extradition treaty between the country and The Netherlands, he also maintained that the National Assembly had not domesticated TOC by enacting a distinct law to that effect even as he argued that the nation's Extradition Act could not take the place of Extradition Treaty between both countries.

Arguing further that the TOC was not yet an applicable law in the country, having not been domesticated, Ebonka said: 'Domestication of treaties is different from mere signing. In this case, it was signed, but not yet domesticated by the National Assembly by enacting an express Act as was done in the case of Nigeria and South Africa.'

After listening to the submissions from both sides, the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, adjourned sitting to June 25 for ruling on the application.