AN APPRAISAL OF THE CONCEPT AND PRACTICE OF EXTRADITION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
Customary international law and treaties have evolved over the centuries by the willing and active commitments of nations to subdue criminals tendencies by punishing fugitive offenders who attempt to escape from justice by seeking refuge in another nations. Extradition has been adopted to effectively prosecute fugitive offenders without offending the sovereignty of a sister state, and without compromising the doctrine of inviolability under international law. One of the problems of this research is that political offence is an exception to extraditable offences, and a concept which is troublesome in the determination of extraditable offence. It is disheartening to learn that some fugitives hide under this exception to escape the wrath of the law. Another problem of this research is the reluctance of some countries to subscribe to the principle of reciprocity and international morality in considering a request for extradition. The attitude of these states has made their territoriesa Haven for fugitive criminals. Another problem of this research is the inherent loop holes in the laws of extradition with particular reference to political offence exception. It is disheartening to learn that bilateral and multilateral treaties, and municipal extradition laws of state parties have made political offence as an exception to extraditable offences, but contain no provision geared towards the ingredients of a political offence that are of universal application. This legal challenge made different nations to ascribe diverse meanings to political offence. The research, therefore, traced the history and development of the practice of extradition in international. It also appraised the nature, scope and principles of extradition in order to ascertain whether the original philosophy behind the birth and practice of extradition amongst sovereign states still exists. It also identified the definitive inadequacy of the concept of political offence, and how it has hampered the smooth practice of extradition.The methodology used in achieving this aim is doctrinal method, which is a library oriented research. It also dwelled on the practice of extradition amongst some sovereign states like England, United States of America and Nigeria. The practice of extradition from the Nigerian dimension of certain instances, like Umaru Dikko, Enahoro and Ojukwu, etcetera, were analyzed and some positive lessons discovered. The research found that political offence exception is an obstacle in the determination of extraditable offences. It has also been found that state parties to extradition agreements take undue advantage of the inherent loop holes in the laws of extradition to avoid their international obligation. It has also been found that domestic extradition laws of state parties empower the Attorneys-Generals or Foreign Ministers who are political appointees to determine which offence is of political character. The research also finds that extradition proceedings are conducted by the requested state, who is the complainant, the prosecutor and the judge. This is difficult to be reconciled with the fair hearing principle of Nemo Judex in Causa Sua. The research recommended that only the courts would be in a better position to determine whether or not a particular offence is political, and not Attorneys-Generals or Foreign Ministers who are political appointees and their judgment is likely to be influenced by politics or other extraneous considerations. The research also recommended that there is need for establishment of a neutral international judicial body to sit in a neutral state to conduct extradition proceedings. It has also been recommended that in the interest of all humanity, municipal legislation on extradition should expressly provide the ingredients that constitute the political offence and the political offence exception should not always be treated like a sacred veil because it is many times used as a shield to protect fugitive criminals.