Drug trafficking: Court refuses Kyari bail

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read
Abba Kyari
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, refused to grant bail to the suspended DCP Abba Kyari and four other police officers charged with alleged drug trafficking.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/57/2022, are four members of the disbanded Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), including Sunday J. Ubia, Bawa James, Simon Agirigba and John Nuhu.

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, held that the defendants had not placed sufficient materials before the court to warrant granting the request.

Justice Nwite said that granting bail was at the discretion of the court which must be exercised judicially and judiciously.

The suspended IRT boss was detained following his arrest on Feb. 14, 2022 by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for alleged involvement in cocaine deal. Kyari, along with four suspended officers, were arraigned on March 7, 2022.

Two suspected drug traffickers, Chibunna Umeibe and Emeka Ezenwanne, who were arrested at Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, were also charged.

While Kyari and the IRT members pleaded not guilty, Umeibe and Ezenwanne pleaded guilty and were convicted.

Meanwhile, Kyari, in his fresh application for bail, said he had spent two years in pre-trial detention by March 7, far in excess of one year which the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 deemed exceptional circumstances, even for person charged with capital offence.

Citing Section 161(2)(b) and (c) of ACJA, Kyari, through his lawyer, argued that this development was thus a core consideration for the purpose of the exercise of court’s discretion to either grant or refuse bail.

He also argued that the facts and circumstances stated in the earlier rulings of the court as necessitating the refusal of his bail application no longer existed as 15 out of 16 of the prosecution witnesses had already testified, citing Section 124(1)(b) of the Evidence Act, 2011.

He further argued that his continued detention violated his fundamental human rights.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Nwite held that the discretion of the court remains throughout the course of trial in a criminal case which can always be exercised to meet the merit and justice of each case.

He said the paramount considerations in the exercise of the discretion are for the defendants to answer to their charges without jumping bail, and not to be in a position to interfer with investigation or tamper with prosecution witnesses, thereby, undermining the administration of criminal justice and constitute a threat to wellbeing of the society by committing similar or other offences.

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

The judge said though 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, he said Section 161 (2)(b)(c) cited by the applicant only talks about offence publishable with death penalty.

He said juxtaposing the section with Section 35(1) of the 1999 Constitution, one would see that there was no breach of the provisions of Section 161(2)(b)(c).

Justice Nwite held that “Section 35(1) 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.”

According to him, in other words, the one year stipulated in Section 161(2)(b) and (c) of ACJA, 2015 is of no moment in view of provision of Section 35(1) oh the 1999 Constitution (as amended)..

The judge said the constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons.

Justice Nwite, therefore, held that, having addressed the issues in his earlier rulings, he was of the view that nothing had changed to distort his findings.

The judge, who refused the bail application for Kyari, including other suspended police officers, sustained his earlier order on accelerated hearing.

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