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Ibori, others to complete jail terms in Nigeria

Nigeria and the United Kingdom  signed  an agreement on Thursday  on the exchange of prisoners between them.

Under the agreement, high-profile prisoners like  former  Governor James Ibori of Delta State, and other Nigerians in  the UK  prisons  will  be transferred to Nigeria to complete their  jail terms.

The UK Minister of Justice, Mr. Jeremy Wright, signed on behalf of his country while the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN,  signed for Nigeria in Abuja.

Wright, who  visited the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, and the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, added that the  British government  would  give the Federal Government  £1m [about N280m} for a  comprehensive reform  of  Nigerian Prisons.

During the visit to Onwuliri, Wright  told journalists  that under the agreement, the consent of a prisoner was not required before  his repatriation could take place.

He said, “In relation to individual prisoners, there has to be a good deal of discussion between our two countries about individual prisoners and the agreement of both countries to be secured before individual transfers.

“The compulsory nature of this prisoner transfer agreement is that the prisoners’ themselves do not have to choose where they go or not but the respective countries do still have an opportunity to discuss whether a transfer should be made.’’

In April 2012, a British court sentenced Ibori to jail for 13 years for money laundering and associated crimes.

Ibori’s wife,  Nkoyo, his sister, mistress and London solicitor  were  also  convicted of related crime.

Onwuliri, who described the  pact  as “historic,’’ said experts from both countries would work out modalities for its  implementation.

“We have been on the prisoners agreement for a long time and we are happy that we are beginning the year on a happy note by signing this agreement,’’ the News Agency of Nigeria quoted her as saying.

The minister expressed delight that the agreement would improve the condition of Nigeria prisons based on earlier pacts reached before the signing.

She pledged that Nigeria  would continue to improve the condition of its  prisons.

Also, the Director of Consular and Immigration Services in the ministry,  Mr. Abdulazeez Dankano,  noted that both countries were signatories to the Scheme for the Transfer of Convicted Offenders within the Commonwealth.

Dankano stated that the scheme allowed for transfer of prisoners between Nigeria and the UK where the consent of both states and the prisoner was obtained.

He said that under the Commonwealth Scheme, only one Nigerian had been repatriated from the UK since inception.

After the agreement was signed, Wright  stressed the importance of respecting the agreement by the two countries, adding that there was a need for the prisons in Nigeria to be improved considerably.

The UK  minister, who led a five-man delegation to Moro said, although the prisoners were paying for the crimes they committed, conditions in  their detention centres  should be made humane and accommodating enough for them.

He thanked the Federal Government and Moro  for making it possible for the two countries to finalise the agreement.

“We believe that the agreement today is a positive step in furthering our mutual relationship and partnership with Nigeria for prisoner exchange. Under the agreement Nigerians in UK prisons will be repatriated to Nigeria to complete their terms,”Wright  said.

On his part, Moro promised to do everything within his powers to ensure that the agreement became operative before the end of  the  year.

He said,  “I think that it is in the mutual interest of the two countries that the agreement reached should be implemented to the letter especially with the kind of traditional historical relationship that Nigeria shares with the UK; we have no reason to say one thing and do another.

“This government, anchored on transformation, is desirous of ensuring that we do things very differently from the way we were doing  them  in the past which have not given us results.”

He assured the visiting minister that even though Nigeria was  grappling with prison congestion, it would not hamper the new agreement.

Moro commended the British government for assisting  in the  reform  and transformation of Nigeria’s  prison system, especially in the provision of necessary facilities that would make the prisoner transfer viable.

There are 521 Nigerians currently serving jail terms in the UK and only one British national in Nigerian prison .

According to  officials, about 60 per cent of Nigerians  in UK jails  qualify for the compulsory prison transfer agreement.


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