Court Okays Extradition of Alleged Nigerian Al-Qaeda Kingpin to U.S.
Abuja — The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, gave the Federal Government the nod to extradite an alleged Nigerian Al-Qaeda leader, Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, to the United States of America, to face charges bordering on terrorism.
After the court gave its ruling, the United States government issued a statement saying it was awaiting extradition of the 33-year-old Al-Qaeda member over his indictment by the Federal Court in Brooklyn, on Tuesday, on the allegation of having a link with the terrorist group.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, while granting an application filed against the alleged terror suspect by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, said he was satisfied that Babafemi had a case to answer before the United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York.
Justice Mohammed said: “I have carefully listened to the application from the Attorney General of the Federation. I have also read necessary and relevant documents attached in support of the application as well as an affidavit deposed to by one Aputa Pius Okena, a principal state counsel .
“With the respondent not countering or denying the facts of the proceeding and since there is no form of objection from the respondent, this court is satisfied that the application for extradition is proper and in order.
“Therefore, an order is hereby made that the respondent be extradited to the United States to face the charge against him.
“It is hereby ordered that the respondent shall be surrendered to officials of the United States not later than 15 days from the issuance of this order. In the meantime, the respondent should be remanded in custody of the Department of State Service, DSS, pending his surrender to the United States.”
Prior to the ruling, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Muslim Hassan, relied on eight separate documents and urged the court to order that the respondent be handed over to the government of the United States for trial.
Among the documents the Federal Government submitted to the court was an original copy of letter of certification with the seal of the USA, dated March 28, 2013, and signed by the US Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry.
Two other letters from the US Department of Justice, signed by its Attorney General and another letter by an associate director in the office of the department of international affairs in the US, Mr Jeffery M. Olson, both letters dated March 27, were also submitted.
In his response, counsel to the respondent, Mr Aje Olori, urged the court to reflect in its ruling that his client had been in custody of the DSS for over 24 months, co-operation by the respondent with local authorities in Nigeria and the respondent not contesting the application for his extradition, saved the time of the court and tax payers money.
The Federal Government had maintained that Babafemi, who until now was based in the US, fled to the country upon realizing that he was to be arrested by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI.
Documents filed by the Federal Government before the Abuja court further revealed that the US authorities are of the view that Babafemi is a kingpin of “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)” an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
Babafemi was said to have admitted, upon interrogation that he was paid about $8,600 by the AQAP to return to Nigeria and recruit some English speaking individuals to work in AQAP’s English language media organisation.
Justice Mohammed who declined to release them on bail adjourned till September 17 to commence their trial.
Meanwhile, the United States government has said it was awaiting the extradition of the 33-year-old Nigerian, Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, to the country over his indictment by the Federal Court in Brooklyn, on the allegation of having a link with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group.
An indictment was unsealed at the court in New York, charging the defendant with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, Al-Qaeda, in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and using high-powered firearms in furtherance of the crime.
The US, which is currently seeking the extradition of Babafemi, also known as “Abdullah” and “Ayatollah Mustapha,” from Nigeria, acknowledged the continued cooperation and assistance of the Federal Government in terrorism matters affecting the two countries.
In a statement made available to newsmen by the US Embassy in Abuja, the U.S. government noted that its Nigerian counterpart had commenced extradition proceedings against the defendant in July 2013 at its request.
The statement read: “The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division; and George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office. United States Attorney Lynch acknowledged the continued cooperation and assistance of the government of Nigeria in terrorism matters affecting both nations.
“According to court documents, between approximately January 2010 and August 2011, the defendant travelled twice from Nigeria to Yemen to meet and train with leaders of AQAP, the Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda.
“Babafemi assisted in AQAP’s English-language media operations, which include the publication of the magazine ‘Inspire.’
“At the direction of the now-deceased senior AQAP commander, Anwar al-Aulaqi, Babafemi was provided by AQAP leadership with the equivalent of almost $9,000 in cash to recruit other English-speakers from Nigeria to join that group. While in Yemen, Babafemi also received weapons training from AQAP.”
It said the US government’s case was being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys, Zainab Ahmad and Hilary Jager, with assistance from Trial Attorney, William M. Narus, of the Justice Department’s Counter-terrorism Section and Trial Attorney, Timothy Hammer, of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
It explained that the charges in the indictment against the defendant were merely allegations until he was proven guilty.