Court transfers Kyari, 6 others to prison custody

eec abba kyari x
eec abba kyari x

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The trial of the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, (DCP) Abba Kyari, and six others before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on drug related charges took a new twist on Monday with their transfer from the custody of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja and Suleja Correctional Centre.

While Abba Kyari and four other police officers were remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre, the two civilians charged with them were taken to the Suleja Correctional Centre, by the orders of the court.

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The defendants are to remain in their new abode till April 28, when the court has adjourned the ruling on the application by the NDLEA for a review of the facts contained in the charges against the defendants.

The review became necessary after the two civilians drug traffickers- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwane, who was arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, had confessed to the charges against them.

Umeibe and Ezenwanne who are listed as 6th and 7th defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/57/2022, had during their arraignment on March 7, along with DCP Kyari, pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking charge.

The four police officers in the eight-count drug charge are Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Sunday Ubua, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Bawa James and Inspectors Simon Agirigba and John Nuhu.

The NDLEA had in the charge before the court, accused DCP Kyari 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 was 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 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 the 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.

Justice Emeka Nwite made the order transferring the defendants to prison custody, shortly after he refused their bail applications (Kyari and his police officers), pending the determination of the case against them.

Before Monday proceedings, the defendants were held in the custody of the NDLEA by the order of the court.

However, Justice Nwite who changed their new places of abode agreed with NDLEA’s submission that the four detained police officers posed a “flight risk”.

The judge in his ruling held that the anti-drug agency adduced sufficient material evidence to warrant the refusal of bail to the Defendants.

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Kyari and his colleagues had through their respective lawyers, led by a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, prayed the court to grant them bail on liberal conditions.

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They argued that the charge against them contained bailable offences.

Their bail applications were 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.

Meanwhile, instead of granting the bail applications, the court ordered the accelerated trial of the defendants.

The NDLEA had in a 21-paragraph counter-affidavit it lodged before the court, insisted that Kyari and his police Co-Defendants would escape from the country and not make themselves available if released on bail.

The Director, Prosecution & Legal Services at the NDLEA, Mr Joseph Sunday, who adopted the counter-affidavit before Justice Nwite, maintained that Kyari, who hitherto headed the IRT, has ‘tremendous influence in the Nigeria Police”, adding that he has the capacity to interfere with its witnesses.

‘That there is a strong likelihood of the 1st to 5th Defendants/Applicants using their influence in the Police and the criminal underworld to interfere with Prosecution witnesses if released on bail.

‘That financial investigation of the 1st to 5th Defendants/Applicants is also in progress by the NDLEA and they are likely to be subsequently charged with money laundering offences as there are yet-to-be explained financial transactions involving the 1st to 5th Defendants/Applicants,’ the prosecution added.

It averred that the defendants ‘are likely to tamper with financial records and interfere with the ongoing financial investigation”, adding that Kyari, failed to report to its office until he was declared wanted.

NDLEA added that one of Kyari’s alleged accomplices, ASP John Umoru aka Too Much Money, ‘has absconded.’

It faulted a medical report Kyari’s legal team attached in support of his request for bail, noting that it was issued at a time the defendant was still in its custody.

The court had earlier heard arguments from both the prosecution and the defence lawyers, on NDLEA’s application for the review of facts in respect of Umeibe and Ezenwanne, to enable their conviction and sentencing.

Kyari’s lead counsel Agabi had contended that it would be prejudicial to his client for the facts of the case to be reviewed and a 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.

Agabi noted that both Umeibe and Ezenwanne were also mentioned in some counts in the charge that involved Kyari and the other accused police officers.

The prosecution argued that it would be unjust to keep the fate of the two defendants hanging, even as it urged the court to take a decision on the charge against them since they voluntarily pleaded guilty to it.

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