The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Friday, refused an application detained Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP), Sunday Ubua, who is facing a drug trafficking charge, filed to be released on bail, pending the determination of the charge against him.
Nigeriacrime.com gathered that ASP Abua, who was a member of the Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, is answering to an eight-count charge the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, preferred against him before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
He is facing trial alongside a detained Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari, who hitherto headed the IRT, as well as three other police officers- ASP Bawa James, Insp. Simon Agirigba and Insp. John Nuhu.
The defendants were accused of tampering with 21.25 kilograms worth of cocaine that was seized from two convicted drug peddlers- Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne.
They were further accused of dealing in cocaine worth 17.55kg.
The NDLEA 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.
Trial Justice Emeka Nwike had denied bail to all the defendants who pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as he remanded them in prison custody, pending the conclusion of their trial.
Dissatisfied with the ruling the trial court delivered on March 28, 2022, which dismissed his request for bail, ASP Abua took his case to the Court of Appeal.
He, among other things, contended that the charge the NDLEA preferred against him, contained bailable offences.
He maintained that the trial court was wrong when it denied him bail, a decision he said would hamper his ability to effectively prepare his defence to the charge.
More so, the appellant argued that despite the allegations the NDLEA entered against him, he still enjoys the presumption of innocence in the eyes of the law.
He, therefore, prayed the appellate court to overrule the high court and grant him bail on liberal terms.
However, the appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel on Friday, dismissed the appeal for want of merit.
In its lead judgement that was read by Justice Stephen Adah, the appellate court held that the Appellant placed no new materials before the court to warrant it to depart from the earlier decision of the trial court.
It held that there was equally no exceptional circumstance to warrant the appellate court to set aside Justice Nwite’s ruling that denied the Appellant and his co-defendants bail.
Justice Nwite had earlier fixed March 22, to rule on an application the detained former leader of the IRT, Kyari, filed to quash the charge against him.
Kyari had through his lawyer, Mr Nureni Jimoh, SAN, maintained that the charge was legally defective and premature.
He argued the NDLEA ought to have allowed police to exhaust its internal machinery before it instituted the court action.
According to him, the Police had already commenced an investigation into allegations against him and his co-defendants and even issued an interim report.
Kyari argued 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, disciplines judicial officers.
In its response, the NDLEA, through its Director of Legal Services, Mr Sunday Joseph, urged the court to dismiss Kyari’s objection to his trial.
In its counter-affidavit, the 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 which made provision for the establishment of a Court Martial, the Police Act, expressly stated that police officers were not exempted from any criminal liability under the law.
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”, NDLEA’s lawyer added.