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US-Nigeria treaty on non -extradition of Americans deadlocked

A bilateral agreement between Nigeria and the United States which seeks to ensure that Nigeria will not surrender any American citizen to the International Criminal Court without first obtaining the consent of Washington, faces a set back as the Upper legislative house wants a rescind of the treaty.

19 August 2005 - Toye Olori
Source: NewsfromAfrica

The decision of the Senate to ask President Olusegun Obasanjo to rescind the agreement, according to political analysts, may cause a rift between the executive and the legislative arm in Abuja. Government has one-year to terminate the agreement as the constitution stipulates that it must first give one-year notice of intent to terminate such an agreement.

The Senators after a heated debate in August agreed that the principle of the equality of all before the law was the only acceptable foundation of the International Criminal Court.

''Any bilateral or unilateral effort by any country or organisation to limit the effectiveness of the court's jurisdiction undermines the integrity and credibility of the institution,'' the lawmakers said.

The Senators noted that any agreement, which effectively sought to invalidate any law or international convention required the decision of parliament, which in Nigeria's case is the National Assembly. Section 12(1) of the Nigerian constitution makes it mandatory for the National Assembly to ratify all treaties entered into by the executive.

They stated that the objection to the ICC by the US was attributable to the American domestic politics and related legislation, including congressional refusal to let any non-US court try US citizens.

But, a submission by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permament Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Professor Ignatius Ayua, a Senior Adocate of Nigeria, faulted the position of the Senate.

''The existence of the Article 98 Agreement between Nigeria and the United States does not violate the principles enunciated under the Rome Statute, nor does it in any way affect Nigeria meeting its obligations to the ICC,'' Ayua was quoted as saying.

Nigeria has recently been under severe pressure from the United States to hand-over former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor, who is on exile in Nigeria, for trial over international war crimes.

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. John Campbell, last month said in Abuja that the US position was that Taylor must face trial at the War Crimes Tribunal. ''My government believes that Charles Taylor must be brought to justice, that he must answer for crimes of which he is accused and that we have an ongoing dialogue with the Nigerian government as to how that can be achieved,'' Campbell said.

Washington's pressure on President Obasanjo to extradite Charles Taylor to Sierra Leone for questioning, has so far hit the rocks as the Presidency had maintained that the former war lord would not be extradited for trial by the UN Special Court, except if the demands come from a democratically elected government in Liberia.

Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity had explained: ''If democratic government in Liberia asks for the extradition of Charles Taylor from the Nigerian government, it will be done. But no other country can ask for his extradition,''.

Taylor is accused by the UN-backed court sitting in Sierra Leone of being behind January's assassination attempt on President Lansana Conte of Guinea.

The court said it has fresh evidence that the former Liberian warlord was behind the bid, alleging a grand plan in which Charles Taylor would relocate to Guinea (after Conte's arranged death). Taylor is alleged to be recruiting a new rebel group. Part of the plan, according to the court, was for Taylor to launch an attack on the government at Freetown and disrupt the sitting of the war crime tribunal.

Taylor plunged Liberia into a bloody civil war when he launched an insurgency from neighbouring Ivory Coast in 1989. He was also accused of backing the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians in Sierra Leone during the war, which ended in 2002. An estimated 50,000 people were killed during a decade of fighting and thousands others mutilated. He was said to have backed the RUF in exchange for diamonds worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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