Nigerian Bizman Battles Extradition Order in Cote D’ivoire

A Nigerian businessman, Hope Ekwueme, being detained in Abidjan for alleged money laundering offence, has appealed against a court order to extradite him to Spain for trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ekwueme, from Anambra, was arrested at Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport, Abidjan, on Oct. 31, 2013, on allegations of fraud and money laundering in Spain.

On Feb. 26, the Accusation Tribunal, in a judgment, ordered that Ekwueme, who has been in detention since his arrest, be extradited to Spain to face the charges against him.

But Ekwueme, through his counsel, Kadidia Toure, has appealed against the extradition order at the Ivorian Supreme Court.

Toure, who prayed the court to release the Nigerian, faulted the process of his arrest and detention, saying that there was no legal international arrest warrant on him.

Describing Ekwueme’s arrest as “illegal and manipulated”, the counsel averred that “there is no authentic arrest warrant on him; the Spanish Government has also not been able to produce any authentic arrest warrant since his arrest.

“There is also no court order declaring him wanted and the issues being presented are issues that cannot stand before the law.”

Toure said that the judgment of the lower court ordering Ekwueme’s extradition to Spain was faulty and capable of trampling upon his rights to fair hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Community in Cote D’ivoire has officially appealed to President Alassane Ouattara to intervene on Ekwueme’s detention.

In a letter dated Feb. 27, 2014, and signed by its President, Mr Nasiru Kareem, the Nigerians described Ekwueme’s  continued detention as unfair.

“We are aware that Ekwueme came to Abidjan for investment purposes; we believe that extraditing him to Spain will be unfair, and may affect his rights to justice,’’ the letter stated.

Speaking to NAN at the Abidjan Central Prison where he is being detained, Ekwueme, who is the Managing Director, East Ocean Oil and Gas Limited, said he had no record of criminal past.

“My record as a businessman is clean; my visit in Cote D’ivoire was to explore investment opportunities that will benefit both Nigerians and Ivorians,’’ he said.

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