Justice Department of the United States of America (USA) is relying on the extradition treaty between her and Nigeria to get Michael Abiodun Bakare back on her soil to face multiple criminal charges of conspiracy, money laundering and stealing of over $20 million (N2.6 billion).
Bakare is presently being detained at the Awolowo Road, Lagos office of the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Bakare is wanted in USA on indictments already filed before District Court in the district of Maryland, on charges of conspiracy bank fraud, interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, aiding and abetting.
A warrant for his arrest was issued on May 24, 2004, by the district court.
There was an extradition treaty signed between USA and Great Britain in December 22, 1931, made applicable to Nigeria on June 24, 1935, which was later gazetted with the Federal Republic of Nigeria Extradition Decree of 1966.
Abiodun Bakare a.k.a Abi, Muyiwa Jones, Mike Jones and Bernard Jones, according to the Department of Justice, is a leader of a group of individuals who committed bank frauds in various states in the USA.
To carry out their scheme, the gang obtained certain documents, including cheques, social security certificates, driver’s licences and credit cards of unsuspecting victims.
Kafayat Folashade Harris, currently in detention in the United States, is suspected to be the anchor-leg of the gang. It was learnt that she used her employment with a Maryland dental outfit to obtain confidential information on the bank account of members, credit cards etc of rich clients who visited the clinic.
She would then pass the same to the gang leader, Bakare, to use in defrauding the victims through a complicated inter-bank movement of funds.
To cover their tracks, the gang was suspected to have used addresses of vacant residence or addresses of unsuspecting individuals as mailing addresses.
They deposited forged or stolen cheques to withdraw funds from the accounts so opened into another equally dubious account in another state using Automatic Teller Machines. Specifically, they transported the proceeds from the state of Virgins to Maryland. They use the money to purchase U.S postal money order at the post office in Maryland or used the fraudulently obtained credit cards to purchase merchandise, which they allegedly shipped to Nigeria.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had kept tap on the gang for sometime and on May 5, 2004, Secret Service Agent, James Cancannon attempted to single handed arrest Bakare. It almost cost him his life. Bakare resisted the arrest and jumped into his car. The secret agent attempted to block him, but the suspect almost ran his car over the agent. The agent fired his service pistol at Bakare and slightly wounded him. Bakare escaped from the scene in his car and eventually fled to Nigeria.
Meanwhile on Thursday, September 28, 2006, crack agents of EFCC who had been on Bakare’s trail following a report by the government of the United States, eventually cornered him in Lagos and detained him at the Awolowo Road, Lagos office of the anti-scam agency.
In a twist of event, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and lawyer to Bakare, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) slammed suit No. FCH/L/CS/838/2006 against EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation, asking among other things, for a declarative order that the arrest of Bakare without warrant was unlawful and a violation of his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of movement and life as guaranteed under section 35 of the constitution.
He also asked for an order that the arrest of Bakare for the purpose of extradition for alleged crime committed in the USA, without following the due process as stipulated in the Extradiction Act is unlawful and a violation of his personal liberty as guaranteed under 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
Subsequently, Agbakoba asked for an order directing the immediate release of the applicant by the EFCC. He argued that Bakare was arrested without a warrant of arrest and “unjustifiably” detained and that a written statement was extracted from him in the absence of his legal representative and that EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation have refused to release Bakare on bail or arraign him before a court of competent jurisdiction.
He urged the court to grant the unconditional release of Bakare as what EFCC was akin to a holding charge awaiting the Attorney-General’s application for extradition.
Lawyer to EFCC, Mr. Seidu Atteh, opposed the application, arguing that Bakare was indicted by a court in United States District of Maryland for fraud and committing an assault on a Federal agent, secret service agent James Cancannon, aiming his automobile at the agent and attempting to run him over.
Atteh said a warrant for the arrest of Bakare was duly issued by the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on May 24, 2004, but could not be effected because Bakare fled the USA before he could be interdicted.
Atteh said he had confirmed from the Attorney-General’s office that an extradiction request had been received by the Attoeny-General and that he (Attorney-General) had resolved that the matter be filed in court in line with the procedure laid down under the Extradition Act.
Atteh argued that the issues for consideration by the court are whether there is a valid complaint of crime against Bakare, which justified his arrest and detention. He submitted that the fundamental rights of a citizen are not absolute.
In his ruling, Justice Mohammed Shuaiby said, “it is beyond any pre-adventure that the applicant (Bakare) in the instant case was arrested and detained based on a complaint that he has committed an offence in the USA and that a process of his extradition is on course. Thus, the applicant is a fugitive criminal within the meaning of section 21(1) of the Extradition Act; Cap 125 LFN 1990. A fugitive is defined to mean one who flees; used in criminal law with the implication of a flight, evasion or escape from arrest; prosecution or imprisonment.
“The law is also trite that by virtue of section 10(1) (F) of the Criminal procedure Act, any Police officer may; without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant; arrest any person whom he suspects upon reasonable ground of having been concerned in any act committed at any place of Nigeria, if committed in Nigeria, would have been punishable as an offence; and for which he is under any enactment in force in Nigeria; liable to be apprehended and detained in Nigeria.
It is also apparent that the first respondent is pursuant to Section 6 of the EFCC Act empowered to collaborate with government bodies both within and outside Nigeria in carrying on its functions. Specifically the 1st respondent that is EFCC, is responsible for dealing with matters connected with extradition, deportation and mutual legal or other assistance between Nigeria and any other country involving EFCC.They as well maintain a liaison with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and other federal agencies involved in the activities of the EFCC.
In the light of the above and considering the uncontroverted averments in paragraphs 12 and 15 of the counter-affidavit; the arrest of the applicant is permitted by law. And on the face of the clear and unambiguous content of extradition (United States of America) Order 1967; the procedure leading to the applicant’s arrest does not in my respectful view offend any law. It is also significant to note at this juncture that the provision of Section 6 of the Extradition Act merely states the procedure for surrender of a Fugitive Criminal and Powers of the Attorney-General thereon.
It does not contemplate the powers of the police officer (inclusive of the officer’s of the 1st respondent) to arrest and detain person(s) reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence or prevent him from committing a criminal offence.In any event, it is not the extradition application that is before this Court but a complaint respecting the arrest and the detention of the applicant.Thus the applicant’s contention that the arrest and detention is akin to a holding charge does not hold waters because the arrest and detention in the instant case is legally rooted. The applicant in the circumstance cannot rely on section 6 of the extradition act.
I have held else-where in this ruling that the arrest and detention of the applicant is for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of the warrant issued in United States of America and also based on reasonable suspicion of committing an offence in United States of America which offence(s) are also punishable in Nigeria. That being the position; the Applicant’s arrest and detention is in-according with Section 35 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and thus the Applicant’s contention that he ought to be taken to court within 2 days is a clear misrepresentation of the law.
In the light of the above and considering the surrounding circumstances of the case the arrest and eventual detention of the applicant is justified in law.Consequently, the application is without any merit and is hereby dismissed.Apparently dissatisfied with the ruling, . Agbakoba has lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal, in Lagos.He has also written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, asking that the matter be transferred from Justice Shuaibu’s court to another judge.
Its Parker baby