By Paul Michael, Defence Editor, Abuja
National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA on Monday arraigned the embattled and suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari and six others before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court 8, Abuja, on an eight count criminal charge bordering on conspiracy and drug trafficking.
The accused arrived the Federal High Court premises under heavy security by NDLEA Strike Force officers.
NDLEA, in the charge, accused Kyari and four other police officers of conspiracy, obstruction, and dealing in Cocaine worth 17.55 kilograms. They were also accused of tampering with 21.25kg of cocaine unlawfully.
When the charge in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/57/2022 was read to the accused, DCP Abba Kyari, ACP Sunday J. Ubia, ASP James Bawa, Inspector Simon Agirigba, and Inspector John Nuhu, who are all suspended police officers pleaded not guilty.
However, two other co-defendants Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alfonsus Ezenwanne pleaded guilty.
While the five-member prosecution team was led by the Agency’s Director of Prosecution and Legal Services, Sunday Nbone Joseph, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN led 13 other lawyers to represent Kyari and Ubia.
ASP James Bawa had Michael Mbanefo and Mariam Osene as defence counsel while M.Y Chiara and two others represented Agirigba and Nuhu, with EU Okenyi appearing for Umeibe and Ezenwanne.
After the accused took their pleas, Chief Agabi told the court that he had filed bail applications for the 1st and 2nd defendants since Tuesday 1st March 2022, a bid the prosecution opposed with a counter application.
Justice Nwite in his remarks said he was yet to get the prosecutions counter application and thereafter adjourned further hearing on bail to Monday 14th March.
The defence counsel urged the trial Judge to remand the defendants in NDLEA custody instead of the Nigerian Correctional Centre, a request that the prosecution said would not be objected on the ground that the defendants will be responsible for their own upkeep.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel expressed fear that the review of facts against the 6th and 7th defendants who pleaded guilty will prejudice the case and therefore urged that the court put the review on hold pending the conclusion of the trial of the 1st to 5th defendants.
The NDLEA prosecution counsel, however, opposed the plea citing an existing judgment. He urged that the court to proceed with the sentencing of the 6th and 7th defendants since they had pleaded guilty adding that it will be totally unfair to keep them in prison pending the trial of the 1st to 5th defendants.
In all, five bail applications were filed for the 1st to the 5th defendants while the 8th defendant who is also a police officer is still at large.
Justice Nwite adjourned the case to 28th of March 2022 for a review of facts and hearing of the case while all respondents are to be remanded in NDLEA facility pending the hearing of the bail application on Monday 14th March 2022.
This is coming amid an extradition application marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/249/2022, which was filed by Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, last week before the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja for Kyari’s extradition to the United States in connection with Hushpuppi’s $1.1 million fraud charge.
Hushpuppi is awaiting judgement after pleading guilty to the charges in a separate case filed at the Central District Court of Central District of California.
According to Malami, the US requested for the extradition of Kyari, hence, the application.
Some analysts have, however, expressed concern that the trial of Kyari by the NDLEA is a ploy to frustrate the extradition moves of Kyari to the US.