…..as court fixes March 28 for ruling, extends remand order
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, on Monday, urged the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to deny the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Abba Kyari, bail.
The agency, in a 21-paragraph counter-affidavit it lodged before the court, insisted that Kyari posed a flight risk.
It told the court that Kyari, who hitherto headed the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, would excape from the country and make himself unavailable for trial, should he be released from custody.
While adopting the counter-affidavit before trial Justice Emeka Nwite on Monday, the NDLEA, through its Director, Prosecution & Legal Services, Mr. Joseph Sunday, equally maintained that the former IRT boss has the capacity to interfere with its witnesses.
The Prosecution counsel told the court that bundles of exhibits marked NDLEA 1 to 5, where attached to the counter-affidavit.
However, Kyari, in his bail application that was moved by Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, prayed the court to grant him bail on liberal conditions.
Arguing that the charge against him contained bailable offences, the embattled DCP, urged the court to invoke the powers donated to it by the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to exercise discretion in his favour.
The bail application was anchored on Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as Section 164 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
The Defendant, who earlier beefed up his legal team with four SANs led by a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi, SAN, argued that the Constitution provided that he must be accorded every facility to adequately prepare for his defence.
Meanwhile, while the 2nd, 4th and 5th Defendants, through their respective lawyers, also prayed the court to release them on bail, pending the determination of the case against them, the 3rd Defendant, applied for time to respond to a counter-affidavit the NDLEA filed in opposition to his bail request.
The NDLEA equally urged the court to deny all the Defendants bail and rather okay accelerated hearing of the case.
The other Defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/57/2022, were four former members of the Police IRT, ACP Sunday J. Ubia, ASP Bawa James, Insp. Simon Agirigba and Insp. John Nuhu, as well as two drug traffickers that were arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne.
It will be recalled that Umeibe and Ezenwanne, who were cited as the 6th and 7th Defendants in the charge, had on March 7, when they were arraigned alongside DCP Kyari, pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking charge against them.
Following an application by the NDLEA, trial Justice Nwite, slated March 28 to review the facts of the case so as to sentence the two Defendants, accordingly.
Kyari’s lead counsel, Agabi, SAN, had contended that it would be prejudicial to his client for facts of the case to be reviewed and decision reached on it, while the trial is still subsisting.
He made reference to cases where Defendants, out of ignorance, pleaded guilty to a charge against them.
“It is not in the interest of justice for the facts to be reviewed while the trial is still ongoing”, he argued.
More so, Agabi, SAN, noted that both Umeibe and Ezenwanne were also mentioned in some counts in the charge that involved Kyari and the other accused police officers.
Before the court adjourned the matter till March 28, the NDLEA, said it was no longer willing to retain the 3rd, 4th and 5th Defendants in its custody due to their “unruly behavior”.
It told the court that the Defendants were “causing a lot of disturbances”.
“We can take the others in our custody except these three Defendants.
“But if they undertake to be of good behaviour, we have no problem, we can take them”, NDLEA’s lawyer added.
Consequently, lawyers to the three Defendants, took turns to enter an undertaking before the court, pledging that their clients would be of good behaviour “from now onwards”.
Justice Nwite said he would order the transfer of the three Defendants to a Correctional Center, should the court receive any further report of their unruly behavior.
The NDLEA had in the charge, accused DCP Kyari who hitherto headed the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, and the other four officers of conspiracy, obstruction and dealing in cocaine worth 17.55 kilograms.
It alleged that Kyari and his men unlawfully tampered with 21.25kg worth of cocaine that were seized from the two apprehended drug traffickers, Umeibe and Ezenwanne.
The police officers were said to have committed the offence between January 19 and 25, 2022, at the office of Inspector-General of Police (IGP) IRT, Abuja, in connivance with one ASP John Umoru (now at large), contrary to section 14(b) of the NDLEA Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Kyari was said to have attempted to bribe a senior officer of the NDLEA with $61, 400. 00 at a restaurant in Abuja to prevent the testing of part of the cocaine that was seized from the two arrested drug pushers.
On the other hand, the agency alleged that the duo of Umeibe and Ezenwanne, conspired with one IK that is currently at large, to import 21.35kg of cocaine into the country without lawful authority and knowingly possessed same, and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11(d) of the NDLEA Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Some of the charges against them, read; “That you, DCP Abba Kyari, ACP Sunday J. Ubua, ASP Bawa James, Inspector Simon Agirigba and Inspector John Nuhu, all male, Adult on or about the 19th to 25th January 2022, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dealt in 17.55kilogrammes of cocaine without lawful authority and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11(c) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“That you, DCP Abba Kyari, ACP Sunday J Ubua, ASP Bawa James, Inspector Simon Agirgba and Inspector John Nuhu, all male, all male, Adult on or about the 19th to 25th January 2022, within the office of the Inspector-General of (IGP) Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves and with ASP John Umoru (now at large) to unlawfully tamper with 21.35 kilogramames of cocaine seized from Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwannne in the custody of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Intelligence Response Team (IRT), by removing and disposing 17.55 kilogrammes of the cocaine and by substituting same with some other substance and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 14(b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ACT CAP N30 Laws of the Federation 2004.
“That you DCP Abba Kyari, on or about 25th January 2022, at a restaurant on Port Harcourt Crescent, Area 11, Garki Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the court, attempted to obstruct the Agency and its authorised officers in the exercise of their duties by offering the sum of $61,400.00 USD (sixty-one thousand, four hundred United States of America Dollars) to a senior officer of the Agency as inducement to prevent the testing of the 17.55kilogrammes of substance used to replace the cocaine seized from Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 23 and punishable under section 49 of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”.