Court orders extradition of Nigerian fugitive, Franca Asemota, to the UK

Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday, January 13, ordered the extradition of Franca Asemota, a Nigerian fugitive to the United Kingdom for offences bordering on trafficking of minors. The court gave the consent to her extradition through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Ms. Asemota, 36, is wanted by the UK government for trafficking of minors to Europe through London.

She was accused of allegedly organising a network that trafficked young women, mostly teenagers, from remote Nigerian villages into Europe using Heathrow airport as transit.

The girls were promised education or jobs such as hairdressing in countries, including France and Spain, but were forced into prostitution.

Ms. Asemota was arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on March 24, 2015, in Benin, Edo State on suspicion of money laundering offences.

On arrest, checks on her profile revealed that she had been on the wanted list of the National Crime Agency of the UK.

When the case came up on Monday, January 11, Ms. Asemota’s counsel, Ugochukwu Ezekiel, prayed the court to grant his client bail to enable her seek medical attention as she had spent almost a year in custody.

Asemota is accused of accompanying around 40 victims on eight separate flights between August 2011 and May 2012. A European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued for her when she was thought to be in Italy, but NCA officers later tracked her down to Nigeria.

The investigation into the trafficking network, codenamed Operation Hudson, is led by Home Office Immigration Enforcement criminal investigators and supported by the NCA.

Hank Cole, head of International Operations for the NCA, said:

"Asemota’s arrest was the result of exceptional collaboration and close working with our partners at home and in Nigeria.

"She is wanted on suspicion of serious offences in the UK and we will now seek her extradition so she can be put before the courts here.

"This operation demonstrates the NCA’s global reach and our determination to track down those wanted by law enforcement in the UK, no matter where in the world they are."

Operation Hudson has already secured the conviction of two men involved in the trafficking network.

In March 2013 Odosa Usiobaifo of Enfield, London, was jailed for 14 years for his role in the trafficking of 14 and 15-year-old girls whom he put on flights to Spain from London.

The following October David Osawaru, from Benin City, Nigeria, was sentenced to nine years for chaperoning two Nigerian women in transit from Lagos to Prague. He was arrested by Border Force officers at Heathrow.

Seven alleged members of the ring were also arrested in the Spanish cities of Madrid and Lérida in September 2013.

When the case came up on Monday, January 11, 2016, Asemota’s counsel, Ugochukwu Ezekiel, prayed the court to grant his client bail to enable her seek medical attention as she had spent almost a year in custody.

Akuta Ukeyima from the office of the AGF, however, opposed the application saying that, it would be better to ask for a short date for ruling on the substantive matter.
Consequently, Justice Kafarati adjourned to Wednesday, January 13 for ruling

At the resumed sitting, Justice Kafarati granted the extradition request and ordered that the accused be extradited to the United Kingdom to face trial for the charges filed against her.
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