A defence counsel in the charges of illicit cocaine dealing against suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari has said that his clients’ guilty plea was not based on ignorance.
Chibuna Umeibe and Emeka Ezenwanne, who were charged along with Kyari and four other police officers, appeared with the other accused persons at a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday and pleaded guilty to three of the eight charges, which bothered on unlawful importation of 21.35 kilogrammes of cocaine while their lawyer, Okenyi was present.
While challenging the argument of Kyari’s lawyer, Mr Kanu Agabi SAN that the plea would weaken the case of the rest of the defence, Mr E. U. Okenyi, who is the counsel for Umeibe and Ezenwanne, said that ‘my clients couldn’t have pleaded guilty to charges in which they are legally represented in court’.
On the strength of the guilty plea, the counsel to the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr Joseph Sunday appealed to the trial judge, Justice Emeka Nwite to order the review of facts of the case concerning the two defendants, and proceed to their sentencing.
‘It will be unfair to defer the conviction and sentencing of the two defendants till the conclusion of the trial of the defendants’, Sunday, who heads NDLEA’s legal services department, argued.
In response, Kyari’s lead lawyer, Agabi objected to the prosecuting lawyer’s request. He argued that if the court convicted and imposed a sentence on the “guilty” duo, it would jeopardise the case of Kyari and the other four defendants’ case.
‘My Lord, convicting and sentencing these two defendants who have pleaded guilty to the charge will be prejudicial to our clients’ case’, Agabi argued, suggesting that Umeibe and Ezenwanne might have ‘pleaded guilty out of ignorance’.
NDLEA’s lawyer, Joseph Sunday opposed Agabi’s argument, saying the ‘conviction and sentencing of the two defendants’ could not be put in abeyance till the conclusion of the five remaining defendants’ trial.
At this point, the trial judge, Nwite directed the prosecuting and defence lawyers to address the court on points of law concerning their arguments.
He then adjourned the suit till 14th and 28th March for the hearing of the bail applications by the remaining five defendants.
The judge will also take a review of the facts of the case to set the stage for the conviction and sentencing of Umeibe and Ezenwanne.
NDLEA also accused Kyari, in a count which features him as the sole defendant, of attempting to obstruct the the agency and its authorised officers by offering $61,400 to a senior anti-narcotics operative as an inducement to prevent the testing of the 17.55 kg of cocaine.
According to the NDLEA, four of Kyari’s co-defendants are police officers belonging to the Intelligence Response Team, a police unit that he led until he was suspended following the charges filed against him in the United States last year.