Howard stands ground over asylum appeal

Judgment is currently pending in the case of Nigerian asylum seeker Ade Onibiyo, who is fighting a legal battle to remain in the UK as a political refugee.

Home Secretary Michael Howard has ordered that Onibiyo, son of a Nigerian pro-democracy activist who "disappeared" after returning to Nigeria, is not entitled to UK asylum, a decision backed by the High Court last December.

However, Onibiyo has challenged this judgment at the Appeal Court where Master of the Rolls Sir Thomas Bingham and Lords Justices Roch and Swinton Thomas have been asked to overrule Howard's decision.

Judgment in the case has been reserved.

During the appeal Nicholas Blake QC, for 20-year-old Onibiyo, said the asylum bid came in the wake of the execution in Nigeria last November of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other pro-democracy activists and amid fears for the safety of the father of Onibiyo.

He argued that the apparent willingness of the Nigerian regime to suppress criticism with brutality made "a credible fresh claim" for asylum.

Onibiyo's father, a one-time engineer with the London Borough of Lambeth, has already been returned to Nigeria after a failed attempt to gain political asylum and Blake said attempts by the International Labour

Organisation to trace him had failed. Onibyo's mother, Joyce, is also threatened with deportation, along with two of her four other children, and she is fighting to stay in the UK.

However, the Home Secretary has opposed Onibiyo's moves.

His counsel, Neil Garnham argued at the appeal that there was no fresh claim for asylum by Onibiyo, merely an "old claim dressed up as if new" and this did not attract a right of appeal under asylum laws.