Two of Abba Kyari’s co-defendants in the cocaine offences trial going on at the Federal High Court in Abuja have pleaded guilty.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had produced all the seven defendants, including Mr Kyari, a suspended deputy commissioner of police, before the court for arraignment on Monday.
Chibuna Umeibe and Emeka Ezenwanne, who are non-police officers, stunned lawyers and the court audience when they admitted their guilt to counts 5, 6 and 7, after the court registrar read the charges to them.
“I’m guilty my Lord,” Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne said in their separate pleas to the three counts.
They pleaded guilty to the charges of unlawful importation of 21.35kilogrammes of cocaine in the presence of their defence lawyer, E.U Okenyi, at Monday’s proceedings.
Meanwhile, Mr Kyari and the four other defendants, who are also police officers, pleaded not guilty to the eight-count charge.
The four other co-defendants are police officers belonging to the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), a police unit that was being led by Mr Kyari until he was suspended following the fraud charges filed against him in the U.S. last year.
The four other police officers facing the cocaine charges along with Mr Kyari and others are: Sunday J. Ubua, an assistant commissioner of police; Bawa James, an assistant superintendent of police; Simon Agirgba, an inspector; John Nuhu, also an inspector.
Conviction, sentencing to wait
After the defendants’ pleas, NDLEA’s lawyer, Joseph Sunday, urged the trial judge, Emeka Nwite, to order a review of the facts of the case to set the stage for the conviction and sentencing of the two defendants who pleaded guilty.
But Mr Kyari’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Attorney-General of the Federation, opposed the prosecuting counsel’s request, suggesting that Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne’s guilty plea could be out of ignorance.
He added if the court went ahead to convict and sentence the two men, it could jeopardise the defence of Mr Kyari and the rest of the defendants.
But Mr Okenyi countered Mr Agabi, insisting that his clients’ guilty plea was not out of ignorance.
The trial judge, Emeka Nwite, on Monday, adjourned the suit till March 14 and 28 for the hearing of Mr Kyari’s and the remaining four defendants’ bail applications.
The judge will also take a review of facts of the case to set the stage for the conviction and sentencing of Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne at the next hearing.
Meanwhile, the court ordered the defendants to remain in NDLEA custody pending the hearing and determination of their bail applications.
Police officers’ charges
NDLEA prosecutors accused Mr Kyari and the four IRT members of illicit dealing in 21.35kg of cocaine between January 19 and 25, 2022, thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11(c) of the NDLEA Act.
Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne allegedly imported the 21.35kg of cocaine into Nigeria via the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Enugu State, on January 19, 2022.
In one of the charges, the anti-narcotic agency alleged that Mr Kyari and the four IRT operatives illicitly tampered with 21.35kg of cocaine by removing 17.55 kg of it and “substituting same with some other substance”. The offence is said to be contrary to and punishable under section 14(b) of the NDLEA Act.
The prosecutors also accused Mr Kyari, in a count which features only him as the sole defendant, of attempting to obstruct the NDLEA and its authorised officers by offering $61,400 to a senior anti-narcotic operative as inducement to prevent the testing of the 17.55kg of cocaine.
Three charges pleaded guilty to by Abba Kyari’s co-defendants
Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne pleaded guilty to the following counts:
“That you Chibunna Patrick Umeibe, male adult and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne, male adult on or about the 19th January 2022 at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court without lawful authority imported 21.35kilogrammes of cocaine and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 14(b) of the National Drug Law enforcement Agency ACT CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
That you Chibunna Patrick Umeibe, male, adult; and you Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne, male adult on or about the 25th January 2022 at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court without lawful authority imported 21.35kilogrammes of cocaine and thereby committed an offence contrary to an punishable under section 11(a) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ACT CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“That you Chibunna Patrick Umeibe, male, adult; and you Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne, male adult and one IK, now at large, on the 25th January 2022, at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court knowingly possessed 21.35 kilogrammes of cocaine and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11(d) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
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