How Lagos auto dealer, Lanre Shittu was freed by American Court after being hurriedly extradited by Nigerian govt.

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Alhaji Lanre Shittu

Imagine being kidnapped by arms-welding men, threatening to inject you with harmful substances, and finding yourself in a foreignland undergoing trial in a courtroom. This was the case with Alhaji Lanre Shittu, the chairman of Lanre Shittu motors, who was extradited to the United States on charges of money laundering and illicit drug deals.

In the first week of December 2000, the atmosphere was rife of reports of Mr Shittu being abducted by armed men. However, two days later, he was arrained in a US court.

It was gathered that his abductors were allegedly oeratives of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) who collaborated with Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to whisk him away.

This came even though there was a pending civil suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja over a move by the Federal Government, led by then-president Olusegun Obasanjo, to have him extradited to America.

Following Mr Shittu’s arraignment at the District Court of New York, pressure begun to build on the US and Nigerian government.

His lawyer, Mr. Mike Okoye, had said, “It is as clear as day follows the night that Alhaji Lanre Shittu was abducted and taken to the U.S in collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), American Drug Enforcement Administration and American marines stationed at the airport fully armed on Monday, November 27, 2000.”

Shittu’s extradition which came in the form of a kidnap was a clear violation of the extradition treaty between Nigeria and the US.

Filing a suit before Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the federal high court in Abuja, Shittu argued that the New York court “lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter because both countries violated the treaty on extradition which they agreed to be binding on them.”

They also urged the court to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation or its agents “to repatriate Alhaji Lanre Shittu and produce him before this honourable court pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”

How the NDLEA abducted Shittu

His brother, Richard, who narrated the incident said Shittu had just returned from one of his court proceedings at Abuja on November 27, when he invited him and his wife over his place.

He said Shittu told them that he got information  that NDLEA had concluded plans with some American DEA agents to abduct him to the U.S.

Richard said:

“Minutes thereafter, we saw  Alhaji Lanre Shittu being chained in hands and legs while screaming for help, we also noticed that the Americans who had earlier on identified themselves to us, saying to him, we will inject you if you do not co-operate in this matter.”

Richard further noted that when his brother was driven out of NDLEA’s Shaw Road, he and Mrs. Shittu “drove in pursuit to know where the applicant was being taken to and we ended up at the Lagos International Airport, where I saw the applicant being disembarked at a distance. I also saw the NDLEA agents and the American DEA agents bundling the applicant into an aircraft.”

Similarly, Okoye told The Guardian that unlike in Nigeria, his client has access to telephone facilities where he narrated how he was abducted.

Shittu was reported to have told him that DEA officials confirmed that the decision to take him away had the approval of the Obasanjo-led Presidency, which made him (Shittu) to accept his fate.

His walk to freedom…

After his legal counsel asked questions like: “Is this how those who claimed they have suffered injustice in the hands of military can turn around to mete injustice to their own citizens whom they owe a duty to protect?”

“Was it too much for our government to allow for due process to take its course? Where lies our sovereignty where U.S Airforce plane can land in Nigeria and remove its citizen to U.S. It is obvious that Nigeria and U.S are in violation of the extradiction treaty which is binding on all persons and sovereign nations.”

After legal pressure began to build, Shittu was eventually freed on grounds “that the District Court of New York lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter because both countries had violated the treaty on extradition which they agreed to be binding on them,”

Source: the wall street journal

 


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