The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, slated March 28, for ruling on the bail request by Abba Kyari, a suspended deputy commissioner of police, and his co-defendants, who are jointly facing charges of illegal dealing in cocaine.
The trial judge, Emeka Nwite, adjourned for ruling after taking arguments from the defence and prosecuting teams on Monday.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) opposed the bail applications filed by the defendants, arguing that Mr Kyari was likely to abscond from trial if released on bail.
But the defence lawyers urged the court to grant their clients bail on liberal terms.
Mr Kyari is standing trial on cocaine-related charges alongside four members of his former police unit, the Intelligence Response Unit, and two other persons arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, Enugu State, in January this year.
The four police officers among Mr Kyari’s co-defendants are Sunday Ubua, an assistant commissioner of police; Bawa James, an assistant superintendent of police; Simon Agirgba, an inspector; John Nuhu, also an inspector.
The two others, who are non-police officers, are Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne,
All the seven defendants were arraigned on March 7 on eight charges of conspiracy, illegal dealing in cocaine, importation of cocaine and obstruction.
Mr Kyari and the four other police officers pleaded not guilty, setting the stage for the commencement of their trial.
But the two other co-defendants, Messrs Umeibe and Ezenwanne, pleaded guilty to the charges, and the court subsequently slated March 28 for review of facts to prepare the ground for their conviction and sentencing.
Bail application hearing
NDLEA, through its lawyer, Joseph Sunday, told the court during Monday’s hearing not to grant bail to Mr Kyari and the other defendants.
Mr Sunday, who heads NDLEA’s legal services department, argued that Mr Kyari would excape from Nigeria if he is granted bail.
“We are opposing the bail applications of the defendants,” Mr Sunday contended, adding “all the conditions for which bail should not be granted are all in this case (involving Mr Kyari and his co-defendants).
However, the lawyer to Messrs Kyari and Ubua Mahmud Magaji appealed to the judge to grant his clients bail on liberal terms.
Mr Magaji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), based his argument on the presumption of innocence of Messrs Kyari and Ubua as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
“The defendants are to be given an opportunity, time and space to prepare for their defence,” the defence lawyer said.
“The presumption of innocence granted to every accused person will be lost if the defendants are denied bail.
The defendants have undertaken to be present in court throughout the duration of their trial,” he further argued.
The counsel for the 4th and 5th defendants, N Y Chiwar, argued that “issues of defence involve sober reflection, and the defendants prolonged incarceration will deny them that right to ample time and facilities to defend themselves.”
Mr Chiwar begged the court to grant his clients to bail.
Meanwhile, the lawyer to the 3rd defendant, Michael Mbanefo, did not move his client’s bail application due to late service of NDLEA’s counter affidavit to his bail request.
After listening to the arguments of all the lawyers in the suit, the judge adjourned the case till March 28 for ruling on the defendants bail application.
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 the 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.