…NDLEA tenders 24 recovered sacks of cocaine
…we hide like rats when terrorists took over Kuje prison, Kyari reveals
…as court fixes Aug. 30 to rule on Defendants’ fresh request for bail
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, admitted in evidence, the sum of $61, 400, which the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Abba Kyari, who is facing drug trafficking charge, allegedly offered to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, as bribe.
Trial Justice Emeka Nwite admitted the money as an exhibit, after the NDLEA tendered it in evidence through its third witness in the case, PW-3, Mr. Peter Joshua, who identified himself as a Chief Superintendent of Narcotics and an exhibit officer attached to the FCT Command of the agency.
The witness told the court that the foreign currency was handed over to him on January 25, after he weighed and conducted preliminary test on wraps of cocaine that were seized from two convicted drug pushers- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwane- who were linked to Kyari.
He said the money, all in $100 bills, were given to him for safekeeping by the Director of Intelligence and Deputy Commander-General of Narcotics, at the office of the Commander, NDLEA FCT Command.
“My lord, I took the serial numbers of the said amount and I packed and sealed the money in a transparent evidence pouch”, the witness added.
Meanwhile, after the money, which was packaged in transparent nylon, was counted in the open court, Justice Nwite admitted it in evidence and marked it as Exhibit 11, while document containing their serial numbers, was marked as Exhibit 12.
The NDLEA had in the charge before the court, alleged that Kyari who hitherto headed the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, attempted to bribe its senior officer 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.
It will be recalled that both Umeibe and Ezenwanne, who were cited as 6th and 7th Defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/57/2022, were arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu while attempting to smuggle cocaine into the country.
They were apprehended by members of the police IRT and subsequently transfered to the NDLEA.
However, the NDLEA, alleged that the IRT under Kyari, tampered with the quantity of cocaine they recovered from Umeibe and Ezenwanne.
The duo, on March 7 when they were arraigned alongside Kyari, pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking charge and were later sentenced to two years imprisonment in line with a plea bargain agreement they entered into with the NDLEA.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Wednesday, the NDLEA, through its PW-3, Mr. Joshua, also tendered in evidence, 24 packs of cocaine that were handed over to it by the Kyari led IRT.
The cocaine was brought before the court in two travelling bags.
While the first bag, contained 9 packs of cocaine wrapped in white cotton sacks, the second bag, contained 3 additional packs of cocaine and 12 sacks containing 390 pellets that were separately tied in nylon bags.
Following a no-objection stance by the defence lawyers, Justice Nwite admitted the cocaine sacks in evidence and marked them as exhibits.
Whereas the Certificate of test form was marked as Exhibit 5, the Packing of substance form was admitted as Exhibit 6.
Likewise, while the green bag that contained three sacks of cocaine and 12 pellets, was admitted as Exhibit 7, the Chocolate bag that contained nine sacks of cocaine, was marked as Exhibit 8.
The court equally admitted three international passports that were seized from the convicted drug pushers, Umeibe and Ezenwanne, in evidence.
While two of the passports belonging to Umeibe (6th Defendant), were marked as Exhibit 9 and 9a, the third passport belonging to Ezenwanne (7th Defendant), was admitted as Exhibit-10.
The development came on a day the court fixed August 30 to rule on a fresh application that is seeking the release of the Defendants on bail, pending the determination of the charge against them.
Moving the bail application on Wednesday, DCP Kyari, through his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, gave an insight into what transpired on the night insurgents attacked the Kuje Correctional Facility in Abuja.
The attack, which occurred on July 5, led to the escape of about 879 inmates, including all 68 imprisoned Boko Haram members.
Kyari, who was inside the prison facility when the insurgents that were later identified as members of the Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, a breakaway faction of the Boko Haram terrorist sect, struck, told the court that he hid like a rat.
He told the court that though the terrorists had after seized the prison facility for over three hours, opened all the gates and forced inmates to escape, he declined to run away, along with four other members of the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, that were also remanded with him.
Ikpeazu, SAN, argued that the prison attack established “a special and exceptional circumstance” that should warrant the court to release his client and his men on bail, pending the determination of the charge against them.
“My lord, every living soul in this country will agree that there was not just a breach, but that there was a grand terrorist attack by an organization that not only successfully invaded the Kuje prison, but took control of it for over three hours.
“However, the Applicant, being a law-abiding citizen, refused to take off.
“If there is anything to establish that the Defendants will not jump bail, it was that circumstance.
“The gates of the prison were left open for over three hours.
“In fact, the Defendant hid like a rat, because the organization that conducted the attack went from cell to cell, saying they want to take him and the others to the desert.
“I don’t know where else in the world, where certified crime fighters that have endangered their lives and abandoned their families to serve the country, are kept in the same cubicle, with same criminals they made their arrest possible, with some of them facing death penalty.
“These people have suffered. They are traumatized by the events of that night. You can imagine what it felt like, witnessing the attackers planting explosives everywhere in the prison”.
Noting that the Defendants anticipated that the prison facility could be attacked, Ikpeazu, SAN, said it was the reason they earlier applied for bail.
He further contended that the Defendants, having been suspended by the police and in detention for over five months, they do not have the capacity to interfere with witnesses the NDLEA intend to produce against them.
“They cannot even have access to the two convicts that are presently under the protection of the powerful prison service.
“Moreover, there is constitutional presumption of innocence in favour of the Defendants”, Ikpeazu, SAN, added.
He prayed the court to ignore NDLEA’s contention that Kyari and his men are being investigated over their alleged complicity in money laundering.
Likewise, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, SAN, who represented the 2nd Defendant,
noted that the NDLEA had in a counter-affidavit it filed in opposition to the fresh request for bail of the detained police officers, averred that; “hoodlums who undertook the breach, seized the prison facility for over 3 hours, but to the glory of God, no one died”.
He accused the agency of lying, noting that a security operative was killed during the attack.
He equally argued that NDLEA’s counter-affidavit was grossly unreliable as it was not deposed to by a prison official.
On its part, the NDLEA, through its Director of Legal Services, Mr. Sunday Joseph, urged the court to refuse the Defendants’ fresh request for bail.
He maintained that there was no evidence to prove that Kyari and his men are being confined with criminals, adding however that under the rule of law, no inmate ought to be accorded any preferential treatment.
He further argued that nothing was placed before the court to warrant the reconsideration of earlier ruling of the court that denied the Defendants bail.
“We, therefore, urge your lordship to refuse the application”, he added.
The NDLEA had alleged that Kyari and his men, unlawfully tampered with 21.25kilograms worth of cocaine that they seized from the two convicted drug traffickers- Umeibe and Ezenwane- even as it also accused them of dealing in cocaine worth 17.55kg.
It alleged that the police officers 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.
Aside from Kyari, other members of his IRT team that are also on trial, are: ACP Sunday J. Ubia, Insp. Simon Agirigba, Insp. John Nuhu, and ASP Bawa James.