The Court of Appeal has finally cleared the coast for definite hearing of the appeal case of the federal government seeking to extradite a serving senator from Ogun State, Prince Buruji Kashamu to the United States of America for trial in an alleged drug related offence.
The court fixed March 8 for the adoption of final argument in the high profile appeal case after regularizing the processes filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami (SAN) out of time.
The hearing of the appeal could not proceed at the last adjourned date following the discovery that the reply brief of the federal government to that of Kashamu was filed out of time ordered by the Appeal Court.
Legal team of Senator Kashamu comprising three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Akin Olujimi, Lateef Fagbemi and Hakeem Afolabi had objected to adoption of the final argument at the last adjourned date on the ground that the reply brief of the federal government was not served on time as granted by the court.
Fagbemi, who led the team, told Justice Joseph Ikhegh who presided over two other justices in the panel hearing the suit that his team needed time to study the government’s reply brief and take a position.
Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, who led the federal government legal team admitted that the reply brief was filed on time, but served late on the senator and applied to the three-man panel of the Appeal Court justices for regularization of the reply brief and which was granted in a short ruling by Justice Ikhegh.
Consequently, Thursday, March 8 was fixed for definite hearing of the appeal after which final judgment date would be considered.
AGF, who is the appellant on behalf of the Federal Government is praying the Court to Appeal to void and set aside the two High Court judgments obtained by Kashamu which put on hold temporarily his extradition to US for trial in hard drug trafficking.
The contention of the federal Government is that Senator Kashamu suppressed facts and evidence to procure the Court orders.
Specifically, government contended that Kashamu did not disclose to lower Courts his indictment by US government on hard drugs involvement, the warrant of arrest issued against him by US authorities and the application to the Nigerian government to extradite him to the USA by the American government.
Government counsel claimed that the lower Courts would not have issued orders in favour of the Senator if he (Kashamu) had allowed the Courts to become aware that he had been declared wanted by the American government authorities. He prayed the Appeal Court to set aside the orders to enable extradition of the Senator be implemented.
But Kashamu in his reply insisted that his younger brother with a striking resemblance to him was the one indicted for drug offence and declared wanted by USA through warrant of arrest.
He claimed that the younger brother has died and prayed the Appeal Court to uphold the restraining orders granted in his favour.
The Senator had approached the US Court of Appeal last year with prayer to set aside the warrant of arrest issued against him and his indictment for drug offences on the ground that it was his younger brother that committed the alleged offence, but the court dismissed the prayer and upheld the warrant of arrest issued against him to face trial in the drug charges.
Apart from adopting final brief of arguments of parties on March 1, the appellate Court is expected to fix a final judgment date after the adoption.
The office of the AGF filed the appeal on behalf of the Federal Government against the Judgments of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, and another one by Justice Okon Abang of Abuja Division which put the planned extradition on hold through a restraining order on the ground that due process of law was not followed.
The AGF in the appeal is praying the appellate court to set aside the judgment of Justice Buba and that of Justice Abang on the ground of miscarriage of justice.
The AGF also averred that the two judges erred in law by issuing order in favour of the senator without evaluating the documentary evidence placed before them during the hearing and prayed the Court of Appeal to void and set aside the two judgements.
The Federal Government had moved to extradite Kashamu to the USA to answer criminal charges on his alleged involvement and indictment in hard drugs offences.
The American Government had approached the Nigerian Government to extradite the Senator but the Senator through his counsel rushed to the Federal High Court with complaints that due process of law was not followed in the extradition process.
He specially alleged that no court order was obtained before the move to extradite him was being executed.
A Federal High Court had in a ruling by Justices Buba and Abang put the extradition on hold pending the time the government will follow the due process of law.
The suit involving the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other security agencies as appellants shifted to the Court of Appeal for determination following the withdrawal of other aspects of the case at the Federal High Court in Abuja in which Kashamu filed contempt charges against the AGF and NDLEA.