A man came here and was granted asylum using an alias.
It took 21 years for border agents (in Canada) to deport him to Nigeria. He made his way back in February.
He used an alias to get asylum in Canada 30 years ago and allegedly cheated the welfare system and committed fraud by using as many as 16 other names before exhausting all appeals and being deported in 2012.
Officials say they still don’t know who he is — but they know where he is.
In February, Chris Osho Oko-Oboh – a.k.a. Andrew Ighiehon, James Aigbe, Friday Adun, Okojie Lugard and Marek Orszula among others – whose true identity is still unknown, according to court, returned to Canada from Nigeria with a “modified” travel document and made yet another asylum claim. It was his fifth over the past three decades.
This time, the man, believed to be 63 now, was immediately nabbed by border-enforcement agents upon arrival in Montreal through fingerprint matching. He has remained in detention, though not without drama.
In March, a tribunal ordered his release but he was sent back into custody after the Canada Border Services Agency appealed to the Federal Court, based on his unconfirmed identity and the fear that he might not reappear for his removal.
In quashing the tribunal decision to release him, Justice B. Richard Bell made an unusual move to order Oko-Oboh to pay $3,000 to cover the costs of the government in the proceedings, saying his conduct “greatly undermines” the integrity of Canada’s immigration, law enforcement, social welfare and judicial systems.
“The respondent has shown a blatant disrespect and disregard for Canadian law. It is apparent the criminal-law procedures have been unsuccessful in deterring the respondent’s unlawful conduct. … There is an evident need to deter the respondent’s unlawful conduct in relation to immigration matters,” Bell wrote in a ruling last month.
“Canadian taxpayers should expect Canada to take all steps necessary to discourage those who would tarnish its generous immigration system. Canadian taxpayers should expect Canada to take all means necessary to recoup a portion of the costs it incurs in relation to its participation in court proceedings.”
Although refugees often rely on fraudulent travel documents for their escapes and many do spend years here as their cases wind through the arduous asylum system and myriad appeal mechanisms, few would have amassed such a long history with Canadian immigration and law enforcement, or have raised such ire in a judicial ruling.
According to the Federal Court, Oko-Oboh first arrived in Canada on March 12, 1991, via the United States under the name of Andrew Ighiehon, and he was convicted of fraud over $1,000 in Toronto less than four months later. In February 1992, he made a refugee claim under that name and was granted asylum in a month.
He was again convicted of fraud in 1993 and a deportation order was issued against him in 1997 based on “serious criminality,” said the court.
While he was fighting the revocation of his refugee protection status and subsequent removal, his rap sheet just got longer: attempted fraud, personation, uttering forged documents, false pretences, possession of credit card, counterfeit mark, mischief and assault. He was deported with the escort of border agents to Nigeria in February 2012.
“During his 21-year tenure in Canada, the respondent committed multiple crimes, for which he was convicted. The respondent’s refugee status was revoked in 2007. He was deported in 2012,” the court said.
“In February 2022, the respondent returned to Canada using a fraudulent travel document. He alleged, without any evidence, that Canadian officials working at the Canadian Embassy in Ghana perpetrated the fraud.”
During one of the detention reviews since returning to Canada, Oko-Oboh revealed he was once in the military in Nigeria and has five children, including three in Canada.
He also explained to the tribunal that his fraud charges stemmed from the “Money Mart” business he opened in 1998. He claimed people would come in with fake cheques and police would come and investigate but ended up charging him when they couldn’t find the actual culprits.
“He ended up always pleading guilty because he ended up taking the blame,” according to the tribunal in a hearing transcript.
Oko-Oboh’s son in Oakville, who works at a Dollarama, offered to put up a $3,000 bond for the man’s release and to supervise him along with an older woman they all call “grandma.”
“If I am released today, I will not disappoint you, the judge, the lawyer, the immigration officer, even God, and even myself. And I will listen to everything that I will be told to do, and I will do it,” he pleaded with the tribunal at a hearing on February 18.
In a hearing in March, the adjudicator presiding over his case ordered him released in part due to the concern over the time it previously took – 15 years – for the border agency to remove Oko-Oboh following the issuance of his first deportation order in 1997.
The agency then challenged the release in court.
“Given the various identities of the respondent that I have already mentioned and what follows, I fail to see how the (Public Safety) Minister can be responsible for any of the 15 years necessary to process the removal,” chided Justice Bell in sending Oko-Oboh back to detention.
“The respondent, who most recently entered Canada with a counterfeit travel document, was prepared to allege that Canadian officials working at the Canadian embassy in Ghana committed the fraud. Asserting such fraud on the part of Canadian officials without any evidence speaks volumes to the trustworthiness of the respondent and his willingness to abide by any orders.”
Meanwhile, over the past few months, border officials have been trying to confirm Oko-Oboh’s real identity with help from Nigerian officials in Ottawa.
In May, a longtime friend of Oko-Oboh in Brampton, who works in real estate, also vowed to put down a $10,000 bond for the man’s release.
“Osho is a good person. He had that long dark stretch that is even difficult for me to explain even to members or people from back home if they were to ask me,” Gordon Isioroaji testified before adjudicator Sophie Froment-Gateau.
“I believe that he is a changed man from that period of time. So, I would plead … that you give him that chance.”
Oko-Oboh’s lawyer, Idorenyin E. Amana, said detention should only be used as “an exception” and the tribunal must explore other alternatives and consider his release under supervision.
“The gentleman in front of this tribunal has been known to the Canadian authority since 1991. His fingerprints and his biometrics, his blood group, everything about his unique, inalienable identity is in the Canadian database,” said Amana.
“I appreciate that the name or the date of birth is an issue. To say that Mr. Oko-Oboh or the individual is not known at all is not entirely correct.”
Border officials have already deemed Oko-Oboh safe to return to Nigeria, a decision that’s currently being challenged in court.
Froment-Gateau said she was not satisfied with either Oko-Oboh’s friend or “alleged son” being his bond person, raising concerns over their ability to ensure he complies with the release conditions.
“I understand that you are being deprived of your liberty, and that every day in detention must feel like a long one for you,” the adjudicator said in her decision in May to keep the man detained.
“However, from a legal perspective, it is not considered yet as a long detention.”
Neither Amana, the man’s lawyer, nor the border agency would comment.