Alleged Cocaine Deal: Court denies Abba Kyari, others in fresh bail application

The Federal High Court, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Wednesday, refused to grant bail to suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari and four other police officers facing drug trafficking charges.

Penpushing reports that the trial judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, held that the defendants had not placed sufficient materials before the court to warrant granting the request, emphasizing that granting bail to a defendant was at the discretion of the court, which must be exercised judicially and judiciously

The embattled police chieftain it is recalled, was in May, granted temporary bail for two weeks in the sum of N50millionwith two sureties in like sum to attend his mother’s final burial rites, but Kyari in his fresh bail application, argued that he had spent two years in pre-trial detention by 7 March, far more than one year which the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 deemed as exceptional circumstances even for a person charged with a capital offence.

Lush Arena

Penpushing further reports that Kyari, known as super cop, citing section 161(2)(b) and (c) of ACJA, through his lawyer, argued that this development was a core consideration for the exercise of the court’s discretion to either grant or refuse bail.

The accused equally argued that the facts and circumstances stated in the earlier rulings of the court necessitating the refusal of his bail applications no longer existed, as 15 out of 16 of the prosecution witnesses had already testified. He cited section 124(1)(b) of the Evidence Act, 2011.

Penpushing also reports that the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police in the same vein argued that his continued detention violated his fundamental human rights in the case marked FHC/ABJ/57/2022.

The police chieftain it is recalled was detained following his arrest on February 14, 2022 by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for alleged involvement in a cocaine deal, and alleged in the crime include four members of the disbanded Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) – Sunday J. Ubia, Bawa James, Simon Agirigba and John Nuhu.

Penpushing further reports that Kyari and four suspended officers were arraigned on March 7,2022, while two suspected drug traffickers, Chibunna Umeibe and Emeka Ezenwanne, who were arrested at Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, were also charged.

The suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police and the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) members pleaded not guilty, while Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne pleaded guilty and were convicted and since being serving their jail term.

Penpushing also reports that ruling on the bail application, Justice Nwite said the law empowered a judge to exercise discretion to meet each case’s merit and justice, explaining that factors a judge had to consider in exercising discretion included ensuring that the defendant would always attend the trial and would not jump bail.

The trial judge added that the judge must also be sure that the defendant was not able to interfere with investigations or tamper with prosecution witnesses, stressing that the court must be satisfied that the defendant would not undermine the administration of criminal justice and would not threaten society’s well-being by committing similar or other offences.

‘The question begging for an answer at this juncture is, having addressed these issues in the court rulings of 28 March 2022 and 30 August 2022, what has changed to distort my findings in the two rulings?” he asked.

Penpushing reports that the judge pointed out that Kyari stated in his affidavit that the trial had lasted for two years and that the prosecution had called 15 out of its 16 witnesses, however, declared that section 161 (2)(b)(c) cited by the applicant, only talked about offences publishable with the death penalty.

The judge stated that juxtaposing the referenced section with section 35(1) of the Nigerian constitution would show there was no breach of the provisions of said section 161(2)(b)(c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).

‘Section 35(1) (of the constitution) stated that a person who is charged with an offence and has been detained in lawful custody and awaiting trial shall not continue to be kept in such detention for a period higher than the maximum period of imprisonment. It is not in dispute that the offence which the 1st defendant/applicant is charged carried a maximum punishment of 25 years,” the judge noted.

Penpushing further reports that Nwite said, the one year stipulated in section 161(2)(b) and (c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) , 2015 is of no moment given the provision of section 35(1) of the Nigerian constitution, emphasizing that the constitution is supreme, and its provisions are binding on all authorities and persons.

The trial judge therefore, held that, having addressed the issues in his earlier rulings, he believed that nothing had changed to distort his findings, and subsequently refused the bail application for Kyari and other suspended police officers, sustained his earlier order on accelerated hearing.

Penpushing also reports that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) prosecutors had accused  Kyari and the four suspended Intelligence Response Team (IRT) members of dealing in 21.35kg of cocaine between 19 and 25 January 2022, thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11(c) of the NDLEA Act.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) alleged that Kyari and the four Intelligence Response Team (IRT) operatives tampered with 21.35kg of cocaine by removing 17.55 kg of it and substituting same with some other substance, and offence contrary to and punishable under section 14(b) of the agency Act.

Penpushing reports that the prosecutors in same vein, accused Kyari, in a count which features only him as the sole defendant, of attempting to obstruct the agency and its authorised officers by offering $61,400 to a senior anti-narcotics operative as an inducement to prevent the testing of the 17.55kg of cocaine.

Meanwhile, in three of the counts, Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne were accused of importing 21.35kg of cocaine into Nigeria via the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Enugu State, on 19 January 2022.

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