Nigeria will drop criminal charges against an American peace worker, her Nigerian associate and two German film makers who had been accused of endangering national security, the country’s top prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Judith Asuni and her colleague Danjuma Saidu were arrested on September 26 and accused of helping the Germans film sensitive oil industry facilities in the violent Niger Delta region and advising them to lie to obtain visas.
All four had pleaded not guilty to the charges and Asuni had said she was being harassed because in her many years as a well-connected peace activist in the Niger Delta she had crossed some powerful people.
“We are withdrawing all the charges against the four of them. I am filing a nulle prosequi today,” Director of Public Prosecutions Salihu Aliyu told Reuters.
Aliyu declined to explain the reasons for the withdrawal, which came after several court hearings during which he opposed bail for Asuni, accused her of using her peace work as a cover to commit crimes and hinted at further, more serious charges.
A senior judicial source said there had been a high-level political decision to drop the entire case.
“It was decided that she was more useful to Nigeria if she was not being prosecuted,” said the source, who did not wish to be named to avoid offending the government.
Asuni, 60, has been based in Nigeria for 36 years and has Nigerian as well as American citizenship. Her work has included disarmament and demobilization projects in which Niger Delta militants were encouraged to hand over their weapons.
She is a personal friend of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and also has numerous contacts in government and militant circles in the Niger Delta.
She had said that the issue of her assistance to the Germans was just a pretext for powerful opponents to harass her now that Obasanjo was no longer there to protect her.
The court granted bail to the two Germans on October 5 and the German embassy said on Wednesday they had now left Nigeria.
Asuni and Saidu were granted bail on October 16 but they were unable to meet the conditions and so remained in detention until November 5, when the decision was taken to drop the charges and they were released without explanation.