Senate seeks suspension of prisoners transfer from UK

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate has urged the federal government to stop receiving prisoners under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, TSP, from the United Kingdom, with a view to regularizing the agreement between the two countries on the issue.

It has now summoned the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama to give insight into the TSP with regard to the agreement entered into between the two countries for further legislative action.

The ministers are to appear before the joint Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, and Foreign Affairs, which was directed to report back to the Red Chamber in one month.

Also invited for clarifications on the issue, is the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau (rtd), to brief the lawmakers on his level of involvement in complying with the agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and to report back in one month to enable it determine further action on the matter.

Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation is also expected to give an update on the status of ratification of all treaties from 1999 to 2017, and report back in one month.

These resolutions followed a motion titled, “Urgent need to regularize the agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the government of the United Kingdom on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons” sponsored by the Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

Leading debate on the motion, Senator Ekweremadu, noted that the agreement was made by both countries on January 9, 2014 by former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke on behalf of Nigeria and UK’s Minister of Justice, Jeremy Wright respectively.

He said the senate was aware that “based on this agreement, the government of the United Kingdom has commenced the return of several prisoners to Nigeria, and has currently initiated the application for the transfer of more prisoners to Nigeria”.

Senator Ekweremadu added that the senate was further conscious that “the United Kingdom Government has referred to this agreement as compulsory, whereas the content of the agreement made no mention, nor indicated that the agreement was compulsory”.

“The senate is cognizance that international law is based on cooperation of states, as such the rule of international law implies that where parties have contracted a cooperation agreement, they are expected to do all that is necessary to ensure a successful implication of the agreement by following the essential internal constitutional and legal procedures required”, he said.

He was disturbed that the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution regarding section 12(1) has not been complied with, saying that “the agreement in this instance signed by the then Attorney General of the Federation was not subjected to legislative scrutiny or enactment by the National Assembly; the agreement is therefore, not in force”.

The deputy senate president further expressed worry that the British National Offender Management Service may not be under a misinformed impression that all the internal procedures have been completed warranting the entity into force of the agreement on September 29.

Also contributing to the debate, the chairman senate committee on foreign affairs Senator Monsurat Sumonu, submitted that proper verifications must be made to ensure that the sentenced prisoners being returned to Nigeria are actually Nigerians.