Monday, November 10, 2003 

Asylum for Taylor an impeachable offence - MD Yusufu

By Habeeb I. Pindiga

Presidential candidate of the Movement for Democracy and Justice in the April presidential elections and former inspector-general of police, Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusufu has said that the unilateral grant of asylum to erstwhile Liberian president, Charles Taylor by President Olusegun Obasanjo was an offence which the National Assembly could rely upon to impeach the president.

Yusufu said in a statement made available to Daily Trust in Abuja yesterday that the president's decision to grant asylum to Taylor without consultation with the legislature "cannot be defended on the ground of either justice or commonsense and was therefore impeachable. This decision must be revisited and reconsidered in the light of the clear implications of the threat to the stability and good governance of Nigeria that it poses.

"The issue was not debated thoroughly, by the representatives of the Nigerian people in the National Assembly and its implementation portrays Nigeria as a haven for war criminals and tyrants that does not bode well for the nation's international image", he said.

The former police boss contended that although removing Taylor from Liberia was necessary for peace to return to the war-ravaged West African country, it was not a reason to shield him from facing the consequences of his atrocities.

"We believe that Nigeria is obliged to uphold internationally acceptable principles of justice and responsible governance in the West African sub-region. The continued protection of Mr. Taylor from being tried for the crimes for which the UN has indicted him does not reflect that obligation.

"Nigeria is pledged to uphold the resolutions of the UN. President Obasanjo's unilateral offer of asylum to Mr Taylor is contrary to this undertaking. By committing the country to harbouring an international fugitive the president has rendered himself liable to impeachment by the National Assembly", M. D. Yusufu said.

Taylor, he said, had been indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Freetown, Sierra Leone for instigating well-documented atrocities and acts of brutality during the Liberian civil war, including ordering the killing of Nigerian, Senegalese and Ghanaian peacekeepers, and called for a revisit of the asylum decision as a means of protecting the nation's security interests, and upholding its obligations to the international community.

The Bush administration in the United States of America has placed a bounty of $2 million (N280m) as a reward to anyone who would assist in the arrest of Mr Taylor but the Obasanjo administration has condemned the action of the American government, saying that it was surprised and shocked by the news of the reward placed on the former Liberian leader.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme at the weekend that the bounty was capable of encouraging lawless and illegal behaviours.

"Such a venture violates not only international law but also all the norms of civilised behaviour," said Fani-Kayode, adding however, that Nigeria would resist any attempt to capture Taylor and described the action of the US government as "state sponsored terrorism".