By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA– The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, rejected an application the detained Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Abba Kyari, filed to quash the drug trafficking charge the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, preferred against him.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Emeka Nwite, said it found no reason to discontinue hearing on how Kyari who hitherto headed the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, and four other police officers, allegedly tampered with cocaine that was seized from two convicted drug peddlers- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne.
Justice Nwite dismissed as lacking in merit, a preliminary objection the embattled DCP filed to challenge the legal competence of the charge, which he said the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain.
The trial judge held that the court was adequately empowered by Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to hear drug-related offences brought under the NDLEA Act.
He dismissed Kyari’s contention that the NDLEA ought to have allowed Police to exhaust its internal investigative/disciplinary mechanisms, before it instituted the court action.
Kyari is answering to an eight-count charge the NDLEA entered against him and four members of his IRT team; ACP Sunday J. Ubia, ASP Bawa James, Insp. Simon Agirigba and Insp. John Nuhu.
He had through his lawyer, Mr. Nureni Jimoh, SAN, maintained that the charge against him was legally defective.
He told the court that the charge was premature, stressing that Police had already commenced investigation on allegations against him and issued an interim report, before the NDLEA rushed him to court.
Kyari maintained that he could only be charged to court upon conclusion of the internal investigation by the police.
He argued that the Police Service Commission, PSC, has similar powers to investigate and discipline erring police officers in line with the Police Act & Regulations, the same way the National Judicial Council, NJC, discipline judicial officers.
Consequently, he prayed the court to quash the charge and discharge him.
His application was also adopted by the other Defendants who prayed the court to terminate further proceedings in the charge against them.
However, the NDLEA, through its Director of Legal Services, Mr. Sunday Joseph, urged the court to dismiss the objection which it argued was based on fundamental misconception of the law.
The agency argued that what it brought before the court was a criminal case for the violation of laws and not a disciplinary action for the infringement of Police Service Rules.
“It was police itself that brought this matter to us, knowing that it has no power to handle cases that fall under the NDLEA Act.
“Powers of police does not include selling of hard drugs that were seized. That is what we classify as tampering and that is the charge the Defendants are facing before this court”, the prosecution added.
Kyari and his men were alleged to had unlawfully tampered with 21.25kilograms worth of cocaine that they seized from the two 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.
The court had earlier denied the Defendants bail and ordered their remand at Kuje prison.
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