The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja has rejected a request to order the transfer of a Nigerian convicted of fraud in the United States to complete his jail time in Nigeria.
The court, in a judgement delivered on Thursday, said it lacked jurisdiction to grant Richard Ugbah’s request.
Mr Ughah had told the court he had already served eight years of the 12 years jail time imposed on him, and that he was due for release in May 2026, according to a statement by the court’s communication unit highlighting the key issues decided in Thursday’s judgement.
He approached West Africa’s regional court to order for his transfer to Nigeria, claiming to have satisfied the requirements for such a transfer.
But delivering judgement, a member of the court’s three-member panel, Sengu Koroma, the Judge Rapporteur of the panel, declared that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The court upheld the preliminary objection raised by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sued as the first respondent, declaring the applicant’s claims as “unfounded and without legal basis”.
The judge also ruled that Nigeria’s Ministry of Justice sued as the second in the case, was not a proper party before it.
The court consequently dismissed all the prayers of the applicant.
The applicant, a Nigerian citizen and resident in the US, was convicted by the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin after he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on 14 February 2017.
He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.
The ECOWAS Court’s statement said, he additionally, pleaded guilty to another count of conspiracy to commit fraud on 15 November 2017, and judgment was entered on 22 November 2017.
The applicant further told the ECOWAS Court that having served eight years of the sentence, he was due for release on 8 May 2026.
He urged the court to issue the orders for his transfer to Nigeria to complete his jail time, having, according to him, satisfied the necessary conditions in line with the provision of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Handbook on the International Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
He also maintained that the transfer of sentenced persons is considered to be an important means of cooperation to prevent and combat crimes.
He said crimes combatting and preventing crimes are the main purposes of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotic Substances of 1998, the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
The applicant further argued that all three conventions cited refer to the possibility of concluding agreements to facilitate the transfer of persons convicted abroad for the offences covered by the conventions to another state to complete their sentence.
Nigeria opposes suit
The Nigerian government sued as the first respondent in the suit opposed the suit. It filed a preliminary objection contending that the applicant’s initiating application was incompetent by virtue of Articles 9 and 10 of the Supplementary Protocol (A/SP./01/05).
It added that its Ministry of Justice sued as the second respondent, is neither a Community Institution nor a signatory to the Economic Community of the West African States Treaty to be competent to be sued before the court.
The government further claimed that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain this suit. It, therefore, urged the court to strike out the notice of registration for want of jurisdiction and lack of cause of action.
In its decision, the court struck out the second respondent’s name as a party in the suit, based on the agreement reached by both sides in the suit.
The court went on to rule that the applicant failed to show a valid reason for his complaint against the respondent.