Buhari Seeks Expansion of Extradition Law, Proposes Stiffer Punishment for Fugitive Refusing Surrender

Udora Orizu in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has sent to the National Assembly an Executive Bill for the amendment of Extradition Act, 2004, with a view to expand its enforcement scope beyond Commonwealth countries.

The bill which scaled through first reading on the floor of the House, seeks to amend Section 2 of the Principal Act, by deleting the words ‘to Commonwealth Countries’, and substituting the sub-section (1) with a new sub-section (1), which provides that: “subject to the provisions of this section, this Act shall apply to every separate country within the Commonwealth, and any other country with whom Nigeria establishes an extradition treaty or arrangement.”

In the bill’s draft, a copy seen by THISDAY, the president also sought amendment to Section 7 of the Principal Act by inserting a new subsection (4), which provides that: “The procedure for the issuance of a warrant of arrest shall be set out in the Schedule to this Act.”

The president also proposed an amendment of Section 15 of the Principal Act, by inserting immediately after the existing section 15, a new section 15 A, on the subject matter: ‘Prosecution of fugitive upon refusal to surrender.’

It provides that: “Where Nigeria refuses to surrender a fugitive criminal to a requesting State on a ground other than the ground of dual criminality, Nigeria shall upon a request by the requesting State, commence prosecution of the fugitive under a special arrangement between Nigeria and the requesting State.”

In the same vein, the Executive bill seeks amendment of Section 20(2) of the Principal Act by substituting the existing subsection (2), with a new subsection (2) which provides that: “For the purposes of this Act – ‘returnable offence’ means an offence however described, which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of two years or more, in Nigeria, and a Commonwealth Country or country having an extradition Treaty with Nigeria seeking the surrender of the fugitive.”

As stipulated in the bill under ‘Schedule provisional arrest warrant’, Clause 1 provides that: “Upon receipt of information that a fugitive is in Nigeria, suspected to be in or on his way into Nigeria, a Judge may issue a provisional arrest warrant under section 6 of the Act, to bring the fugitive before the Court.”

Clause 2 further provides that: “Before issuing a provisional warrant of arrest upon information, a Judge shall consider whether – (a) the alleged offence is an extraditable offence; and (b) there is sufficient evidence or information to justify the issuance of a provisional warrant of arrest.”

In addition, Clause 3 provides that: “The provisional warrant of arrest shall direct that the fugitive to be brought before the issuing Judge within 48 hours of effecting the arrest or such longer period as the Court may deem reasonable.”

The Chairman House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Hassan Fulata in line with legislative procedure, will gazette the Bill for second reading during which members are to make inputs.

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