By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The detained Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Abba Kyari, who is facing a drug trafficking charge, yesterday challenged the powers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, to prosecute him.
Kyari, who hitherto headed the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, is on trial for allegedly tampering with cocaine that was seized from two convicted drug peddlers- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne.
He is answering to an eight-count charge the NDLEA preferred him and four members of his team; ACP Sunday J. Ubia, ASP Bawa James, Insp. Simon Agirigba and Insp. John Nuhu.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Wednesday, Kyari, through his lawyer, Mr Nureni Jimoh, SAN, maintained that the charge against him was legally defective.
He told the court that the charge was premature, insisting that the NDLEA ought to have allowed police to exhaust its internal machinery before it instituted the action.
He told the court that the Police had already commenced an investigation into allegations against him and issued an interim report.
Kyari, maintained that he could only be charged to court upon conclusion of the internal investigation by the police.
He argued that the Police Service Commission, PSC, has similar powers to investigate and discipline erring police officers in line with the Police Act & Regulations, the same way the National Judicial Council, NJC, discipline judicial officers.
Consequently, Kyari, urged the court to quash the charge and discharge him.
His application was also adopted by the other Defendants who prayed the court to terminate further proceedings in the charge against them.
Meanwhile, the NDLEA, through its Director of Legal Services, Mr Sunday Joseph, urged the court to dismiss the Defendants’ preliminary objections which it argued was based on a fundamental misconception of the law.“In a counter-affidavit it filed before the court, NDLEA, argued that what it brought before the court was a criminal case for the violation of laws and not a disciplinary action for the infringement of police service rules.
It told the court that unlike the Armed Forces Act that made provision for establishment of a Court Martial, the Police Act, expressly stated that police officers are not exempted from any criminal liability under the law.
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The NDLEA further argued that if it was the duty of the police to investigate or prosecute drug-related cases, it would not have transferred such cases to it.“”It was the police itself that brought this matter to us, knowing that it has no power to handle cases that fall under the NDLEA Act.
“Powers of police does not include selling of hard drugs that were seized. That is what we classify as tampering and that is the charge the Defendants are facing before this court.”
“It is the Police Act itself that says that police officers can be charged. The 1st Defendant, Kyari, was even on suspension when he committed the offence. “”The Applicants have not by way of an affidavit or legal argument, established any condition precedent required for the filing of this charge. To that extent, their application must fail as it is misconceived and bereft of any legal or factual structure.
“We urge my lord to dismiss the application and proceed to hear of the matter”, NDLEA’s lawyer submitted.“After he had listened to both parties, trial Justice Emeka Nwite adjourned the matter till March 22 for a ruling.
The NDLEA had alleged that Kyari and his men, unlawfully tampered with 21.25kilograms worth of cocaine that they seized from the two convicted drug traffickers- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwane- even as it also accused them of dealing in cocaine worth 17.55kg.
It alleged that the police officers committed the offence between January 19 and 25, 2022, at the office of Inspector-General of Police (IGP) IRT, Abuja, in connivance with one ASP John Umoru (now at large), contrary to section 14(b) of the NDLEA Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.“The court had earlier denied the Defendant’s bail, even as it ordered their remand at Kuje Prison.
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