© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
INTERPOL issues arrest warrant against Nigerian for ‘parental abduction’ of 9-year old from Brazil
By Damilola BANJO
THE International Criminal Police Organisation, also known as INTERPOL, has issued a REd Notice against Mr. Michael Olusegun Akinruli, a Nigerian who used to live in Brazil, for parental abduction of a 9-year old girl he had out of wedlock with Ms. Laurima De Jesus Pires, a Brazilian woman.
A Red Notice is issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence. It is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
The notice came 3 months after Mr. Akinruli defied a court order that mandated him to return Atinuke Folasade Pires Akinruli to the custody of his mother in Brazil, on or about February 3, 2019.
A Magistrate Court in Minas Gerais, Brazil, granted a 25-day travel authorization to Mr. Akinruli to visit Nigeria with his daughter, Atinuke, between January 9, 2019, and February 3, 2019, but Mr. AKinruli had since remained in Nigeria with the girl, in contravention of the Brazilian Court order.
On the February 4, Ms. Pires, the mother of the child, said rather than return to Brazil with the child, Mr. Akinruli sent her an email notifying her of a court injunction obtained from a Lagos State Magistrate Court, granting him full custody of Atinuke.
Ms. Pires, who has now taken residence at the Brazilian Embassy in Nigeria till she locates her child, said she has been denied access to the daughter and has no clue of her ex-lover’s whereabouts in Nigeria.
Love waxes cold
Ms. Pires met Mr. Akinruli in 2005, at the City of Belo Horozonte in the Minas Gerais. Their young love grew and they moved in together shortly after that. During this period of cohabitation, Atinuke was conceived and born in February of 2009.
However, three years after Atinuke’s birth, the love the two shared had begun to wax cold. “In 2012 I made a decision to separate because I could not bear to live with so many of his lies,” Ms. Pires said. “Living with someone who lies all the time is not easy at all.”
Ms. Pires moved out of their shared apartment with Atinuke, who was then 3-years old, and went back to her parents’ house. According to her, Mr. Akinruli had full access to baby Atinuke. “Michael always had contact and always participated in the life of our daughter,” she said.
In 2013, Mr. AKinruli, still living in Brazil, married a Nigerian woman but Atinuke remained in the custody of her mother. The battle over Atinuke’s custody, however, began in 2016 when Ms. Pires married another man.
“In the year 2016, I got married to my current husband,” she said. “In that same year 2016, Michael entered the justice system requesting that the guard of Keke was shared and also proposed to assume all the expenses with the studies of Keke”.
The court case in Brazil
In accordance with the Brazilian Family law, joint custody of Keke, Atinuke as fondly called by her mother, was granted. Ms. Pires said this was their living arrangement until Mr. Akinruli approached the court for a permit to bring Atinuke to Nigeria to continue her studies.
In a judicial order of a Court of First Instance in Minas Gerais, Ms. Pires claimed that Mr. Akinruli had previously filed for authorization to bring Atinuke to Nigeria for the period of two years. The mother denied granting the travel’s authorization, arguing that the father does not intend to return to Brazil.
However, while this proceeding was still on, Mr. Akinruli filed for a new permit, in limine, requesting to bring Atinuke to Nigeria for 30 days for the purposes of “leisure and familiar visit during the period of school vacation”.
Most motions in limine are filed by a party to limit or prevent certain evidence from being presented by opposing counsel at the time of trial. The purpose of a motion in limine is to prevent the introduction of matters at trial which is irrelevant, inadmissible or prejudicial.
The motion in limine was granted and, according to Ms. Pires, she only got to know of the order through a phone call from Atinuke at the airport. Mr. Akinruli’s Nigerian wife and the daughter he had with the Nigerian woman travelled to join him in Nigeria on February 1, 2019, two days before the mandatory return of Atinuke.
In obtaining the travel relief which was granted in limine, Mr. Akinruli presented to the court a return ticket and evidence that he had enrolled both Atinuke and her stepsister in a school in Brazil.
According to the court papers: “The father produced evidence of fixed residence in this Capital, which consisted of an incorporated company legally registered. He, furthermore, proved to exercise the function of the consul of Nigeria in Belo Horizonte. He proved to be a graduate student of ‘Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais’ (PUC-MG). He evidenced enrollment of both daughters (Atinuke and the sister Iwalewa) in a private school (Colégio Santa Maria). He evidenced the purchase of round trip tickets, with departure foreseen for 9 January 2019 and return foreseen for 3 February .2019.
“The Father represented that the purpose of the trip was to provide the conviviality of the daughters with the extensive paternal family and make her participate in the culture, habits, customs, religion and language of his country. The father had evidenced to be the president of ‘Instituto Iorubá’, which aimed to promote Iorubá’s culture and religion in Brazil. At last, he supplies (sic) the telephone and address of his sister (Paternal aunt of the infant’s), where he stated that he intended to be hosted during their stay in Nigeria.
“He requested the interlocutory relief, arguing to have to buy the tickets and the need of the occurrence of the trip during the school vacation of the infant. He argued that not granting of the interlocutory relief would bring serious financial damages, besides making the trip of the daughter with the father and paternal sister unviable.
“The request was considered, in limine, as a leisure travel’s authorization, with a familiar and cultural purpose, without the intention of fixation of residence abroad. The motives of the request (plausibility of material right) were understood as relevant, as well as there might be the possibility that the occasional granting of the request, only in a final decision, could prevent the intention of the trip. Therefore, the case would stop being useful to the fulfilment of the interest of the requesting party and of the infant’s. The effects of the interlocutory relief of the custody were granted in limine, to authorize the infant’s trip abroad.”
The court case in Nigeria
Upon arriving in Nigeria, Mr. Akinruli, again approached the Lagos State Magistrate Court in Yaba with an ex-parte motion, seeking guardianship of Atinuke.
According to legal dictionary, ex-parte refers to motions, hearings or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only. Ex-parte matters are usually temporary orders (like a restraining order or temporary custody) pending a formal hearing or an emergency request for a continuance.
The court, not being aware of the full facts of the case, granted Mr. Akinruli guardianship of Atinuke in an ex-parte order issued on February 4, 2019, a day after Atinuke ought to have returned to Brazil.
On March 12, 2019, Ms. Pires filed a Preliminary Objection, praying the court to strike the ex-parte order for lacking in jurisdiction. The mother, through her lawyer, laid bare the fact of the case, while informing the court that there is a joint custody arrangement in Brazil.
Mr. K.O. Ogundare, the presiding Magistrate, not minding the plethora of reliefs sought by both parties, thereafter struck out the case for lacking in jurisdiction.
Where is Atinuke?
The endless battle for the custody of Atinuke has continued in Nigeria with her mother in total darkness about her whereabouts. “I have only spoken with Keke two times since she came to Nigeria,” an emotional Ms. Pires said, unable to fight back tears.
On one hand, in the Red Notice issued by INTERPOL, Mr. Akunruli’s home address in Lagos was given as 26 Aladesuru Street, PapaAjao, Mushin, Lagos State – Nigeria.
Visit to this address revealed that it is in fact not Mr. Akinruli’s current home address but his friend’s apartment where he used to squat until recently.
The friend, who refused to give his name, said Mr. Akinruli no longer stays in the apartment. “He has got his own apartment and moved out of here,” he said. Although, neighbours claimed that Mr. Akinruli still visits the apartment regularly and sometimes stays for days.
On the other hand, in the court papers filed at the Lagos State Magistrate Court, said Atinuke now lives in Akure, Ondo State where she is allegedly schooling.
Ms. Pires said she is ready to stay in Nigeria until she finds her daughter and return home safely with her.