By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Abba Kyari, who is facing drug trafficking charge, on Wednesday, gave an insight into what transpired on the night insurgents attacked the Kuje Correctional Facility in Abuja.
The attack, which occured 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 struck, told the court that he hid himself like a rat.
The attackers were later identified as members of the Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, a breakaway faction of the Boko Haram terrorist sect.
He told the court that though the terrorists had, after seizing the 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.
Addressing the court through his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu(SAN), Kyari, who hitherto led the police IRT, argued that the prison attack established “a special and exceptional circumstance” that should warrant the court to release him and his men on bail, pending the determination of the charge the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, preferred 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 any thing 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.
“Infact, 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 traumatised 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 stressed that 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, 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 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 three 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.
Meanwhile, trial Justice Emeka Nwite adjourned ruling on the Defendants’ fresh application for bail till August 30.
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- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus 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.