By RAMON OLADIMEJI AND AFEEZ HANAFI
The battle of wits between the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the embattled senator-elect for Ogun-East senatorial district, Mr. Buruji Kashamu, continued on Tuesday with the anti-narcotic agency defying an order of a Lagos Federal High Court barring it from arresting the politician.
The court headed by Justice Ibrahim Buba gave a ruling on Tuesday afternoon ordering the more than 50 operatives of the NDLEA who had laid siege to the Lekki Phase 1 home of the Peoples Democratic Party chieftain since Saturday to vacate the duplex immediately.
Specifically, the judge described the siege to the Ijebu politician’s home as sub judice, stressing that it did not follow due process.
Also, the court barred any move by the NDLEA to arrest Kashamu, who had been holed up in his bedroom ever since, pending the ruling on a fundamental right application he filed before Justice Okon Abang of the same court.
It will be recalled that Abang, on May 8, fixed Wednesday, May 27, 2015, as the date to rule on the said application filed by Kashamu against the Inspector-General of Police and 13 others.
Kashamu, through his lawyers, have been seeking an order of the court restraining the defendants from giving effect to an alleged plot to abduct and forcibly extradite him to the United States of America to face alleged drug trafficking charges.
Buba pronounced the action of the NDLEA operatives as sub judice and ordered the men of the Nigerian Police Force to ensure that the NDLEA operatives vacate Kashamu’s premises “without a free for all.”
Buba held, “I am of the opinion that the justice of this case at this point demands that the men of the NDLEA numbering up to 50 or more stationed at the residence of the applicant be ordered to vacate the premises in view of the subsisting order made by Abang J.
“The parties shall stay all actions pending the determination of the application before Abang J.
“The Nigeria Police Force is directed or informed that there is an alleged contempt proceedings instituted by the applicant against the respondents, and are to ensure that orders of this court are obeyed, as it is the duty of all authorities and principalities and agents of government to obey court order.
“There shall be no room for a free for all.
“The defendants, who are alleged contemnors, are directed by this court not to do anything to undermine the judicial process of this court.”
The NDLEA had said it had received a formal extradition request on Kashamu from the government of the US and was coming to court on Monday to secure an extradition order.
The anti-narcotics agency claimed that the US government had requested Kashamu to stand trial on alleged drug-trafficking offences.
However, the NDLEA, which from all indications had yet to secure a warrant of arrest on Kashamu, failed to bring him to court on Monday but continued to lay siege to his house located on Oladipo Omotosho Street.
But the NDLEA kicked against the court order mandating it to withdraw its officials from Kashamu’s residence, insisting that its action was within the confines of the law.
Kashamu, a financier of the PDP in Ogun State, is also the Chairman, Organisation and Mobilisation Committee of the ruling party in the South-West. He was a staunch supporter of the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Shortly after the ruling, the NDLEA, through its spokesperson, Mitchell Ofoyeju, issued a statement describing the court order as trivial and an attempt to prevent it from performing its statutory functions.
The agency maintained it had received an order from the United States government to extradite Kashamu for drug related offences and claimed to have served a warrant of arrest on him.
The statement read, “NDLEA has described as diversionary and inconsequential reports of a court order directing its men to vacate the residence of senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu, and requesting both the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Bello Adoke and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, to appear in court.
“The NDLEA does not believe that any court will issue an order preventing a government agency from performing its statutory responsibilities in a lawful manner. The agency has, therefore, refused to be distracted and will continue to maintain presence at the residence. It is advisable that Kashamu respects the law by submitting himself to the due process of the law.
“We are prepared to explore all legal means in handling this case to a logical conclusion. The Nigerian Government has received a formal request from the United States government for the extradition of Prince Buriji Kashamu. It also has a provisional warrant of arrest on him contrary to claims by his attorneys.”
The statement stated further that Kashamu had been a target of both the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security for over 20 years.
It added that the politician, who teamed up with President Jonathan against former President Olusegun Obasanjo during the battle for the control of Ogun State had been indicted by the Grand Jury in the Northern District of Illinois, United States on heroin trafficking charges.