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Little effort has been made to understand the nexus between the U.S. government’s support for asylum granted to Charles Taylor by the Nigerian government and her relations with Nigeria. More fundamentally, the impact of the asylum granted to Charles Taylor on international law of asylum has not been properly investigated. This study, therefore, focused on United States- Nigeria relations and the politics of Charles Taylor’s asylum. The specific objectives were to: (i) ascertain if there was any relationship between United States government-driven peace process in Liberia and Charles Taylor’s asylum in Nigeria, (ii) determine whether United States government’s pressure on Nigeria influenced the Nigerian government handover of Charles
Taylor for prosecution for war crimes (iii) determine whether the asylum granted to Charles Taylor by the Nigerian government violated the principles of international law of asylum. The study anchored analysis on the Centre-periphery theory and employed qualitative method and ex-post-facto research design. Data for the study were sourced from official documents, books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The data were analyzed using descriptive analysis, logical induction, and content analysis. The study revealed as follows: one, the U.S.A. government championed the Yamossoukro Accord and the Cotonou Accord of June 1991 and June 1993 respectively, in which the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of August, 2003 was reached. The most immediate consequence of the CPA was Taylor’s resignation and subsequent asylum in Nigeria in August, 2003. Two, the U.S. Congress voted $2 million as compensation for Taylor’s capture while on asylum in Nigeria; the U.S. Congress passed the Public Law 108- 199 urging that war crimes indictees like Charles Taylor should face trial while on asylum in Nigeria. Finally, the asylum granted to Charles Taylor, by the Nigerian government violated Paragraph 7(d) of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Statute; violated the 1946 Constitution of the International Refugee Organization and Article 1F(a) of the 1951 Refugee Convention.


1.1 Background to the Study

Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia went through two phases of fratricidal rebel wars that left the country utterly devastated. Many scholarly literature such as Ellis (1995; 1998); Ellis and Gerrie, (2004); Reno, (1998) and journalistic accounts exist on the cause(s) of the war in Liberia, the reasons that it became protracted, and the resolution process as Charles Taylor’s involvement in the Liberian crisis started in December 1989, when, as the leader of the guerrilla National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL, he was successful in overthrowing Doe’s government (Odiaka, 2003; Aremu and Johnson, 2007). However, two factions later emerged out of the NPFL headed by Samuel Johnson and Charles Taylor which led to a bloody civil war in Liberia in which an estimate of 250,000 lives were lost (Aremu and Johnson, 2007).

After the first civil war, Taylor became President of Liberia in 1997 through a general election. Unfortunately, Taylor’s presidency became a continuation of the war. Thus, in the year 2000, there was an internal insurrection against his government. Expectedly, his government’s clampdown on the internal insurrection claimed about 2000 lives (Aremu and Johnson, 2007). The period 1999 to 2003, can be seen as the second phase of the civil war. As President, it was reported that Taylor sold arms and other military equipments to the brutal Revolutionary United Front, RUF, based in Sierra Leone in exchange for Sierra Leone’s diamond during the country’s civil war from 1991-2001, in which an estimate of 200,000 people died (Semenitari, 2004; Nzeakah, 2003; Aremu and Johnson, 2007).

As a result of these and other alleged humanitarian crimes, the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), in June 2003, preferred a 17-count charge against Taylor for war crimes and issued warrant of arrest for him. It must be noted that Taylor was convicted for “aiding and abetting” war crimes and crimes against humanity, but this threshold is not a high one. This same standard could potentially be applied to other heads of states that might be culpable of aiding and abetting crimes within their territory or elsewhere.

That might include, for example, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, who is alleged to support the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, which committed crimes in Eastern Congo’s Ituri province, or Rwandan President Paul Kagame for his support of the National Congress for the Defence of the People and its crimes in Congo’s Kivu region. These two central African rulers supported crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Museveni and Kagame both heavily supported the UPC. Yet the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is separate from the Special Court for Sierra Leone, has not indicted Museveni or Kagame (Chris, 2012).
Faced with local insurrection and international pressure to resign his presidency as a result of the SCSL charges, Taylor’s, his supporters’ and oppositions’ claims and counter-claims to power resulted to more internal crisis that gave rise to more humanitarian crises for Liberia. As noted by Nwosu and Obayuwana (2003) and Kolawole (2004), Nigeria, motivated largely by concerns for Liberia’s humanitarian crisis and the hope that Taylor’s departure would speed up an end to the war in Liberia, the former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, offered Taylor political asylum after
wide consultations with African and world leaders.
The word “asylum” is the Latin counterpart of the Greek word “asylon”, which means freedom from seizure. Historically, asylum has been regarded as a place of refuge, where one could be free from the reach of a pursuer. Sacred places first provided such a refuge, and scholars are of the view that the practice of asylum is as old as humanity itself (Roman, 1994). According to Morgenstern (1949), the right of a state to grant asylum is well established in international law.


It follows from the principle that every sovereign state is deemed to have exclusive control over its territory and hence over persons present in its territory. One of the implications of this generally recognized rule is that every sovereign state has the right to grant or deny asylum to persons located within its boundaries. Traditionally, thus, in international law, the right of asylum has been viewed as the right of a state, rather than the right of an individual (Guy, 1983; David, 1990; Paul, 1953).
The right of states to grant political asylum to individuals is supported by international and regional instruments as well as state practices. First, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides in Article 14(1) inter alia the right of each individual to “enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 14(1), G.A. Res. 217A (III), U.N. GAOR, 3d Session at 71, U.N. Doc. A/810, 1948). Second, the Declaration on Territorial Asylum adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1967 provides in Article 1(1) that, “asylum granted by a State, in the exercise of its sovereignty, to persons entitled to invoke Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… shall be respected by all other States” (Declaration on Territorial Asylum, Art. 1(1), G.A. Res. 2312, U.N. GAOR, 22d Session).

Further, Article 1(3) of this Declaration vests the state of asylum with the authority “to evaluate the grounds for the grant of asylum”. Again, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (‘1951 Convention’), which was later amended by the 1967 Protocol clearly spelt out the right of individuals for political asylum.
In the same vein, the defunct Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa provides, in Article II(1), that member states of the organization of African Unity “shall use their best endeavors consistent with their respective legislations to receive refugees” (OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, September10, 1969, art. 11(1). Similarly, the Convention on Territorial Asylum adopted by the Organization of American States in 1954, stipulates in Article 1 that, “(e)very State has the right, in the exercise of its sovereignty, to admit into its territory such persons as it deems advisable, without, through the exercise of this right, giving rise to complaint by any other State.” (Convention on Territorial Asylum, March. 28, 1954, OEA/Ser.X/1, art. 1).

The Asian- African Legal Consultative Committee in 1966 adopted Principles Concerning Treatment of Refugees; Article III(1) of which states that, “(a) State has the sovereign right to grant or refuse asylum in its territory to a refugee”(Principles Concerning Treatment of Refugees, 1966, Art. 111(1).
Again, in 1977 “the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a Declaration on Territorial Asylum that in Article 2 reaffirms the right of states to grant asylum” (Roman, 1994:5). In line with international law and best practices, Nigeria in 1989 promulgated an Act to establish the National Commission for Refugees for safeguarding the interest and treatment of persons who are seeking to become refugees in Nigeria or persons seeking political asylum in Nigeria and other matters incidental thereto. This is popularly known as National Commission for Refugees Act 1989.
In the light of this background on the right to asylum, it is not surprising that Nigeria accepted to grant Taylor asylum in 2003. Subsequently, on August 7, 2003, Taylor formally resigned from office, handing over power to Moses Blah, his Vic


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