SAN Faults Early Release of Drug Couriers

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, has faulted the plea bargain the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) entered into with two alleged international drug couriers last year.

According to the lawyer, the plea bargain led to their release from the custody of the Nigeria Correctional Service Centre.

The senior advocate disclosed that the duo of Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne were arrested at the car park of Enugu Airport by the operatives of the Inspector General of Police’s Response Team after they had been cleared by the NDLEA and other security officials at the International Airport in Enugu.

The IRT operatives were said to have acted on a credible information by a whistleblower.

Ikpeazu said it smacks of complicity on the part of the NDLEA to allow the drug traffickers and their sponsors walk the street while the policemen who through diligent work arrested them are in prison.

He wondered why the NDLEA has continued to object to bail and has done everything possible to ensure the policemen do not get bail.

The senior lawyer who spoke after the hearing of the case in court, explained that a good defence helps a judge to determine where guilt or innocence will lie, adding that men of the Police IRT are “persons that have added considerable value to society in many ways.”

According to him, the illicit drugs in dispute were intercepted by the IRT team at the parking lot of an airport, meaning that they must have been cleared to come into Nigeria by relevant authorities, including the NDLEA and not the police.

“When you look at the case itself and ask what precipitated the charge? It was that the Police IRT Unit was able to do that which the NDLEA was unable to do.

“They (IRT) were able to detect a drug cartel that had isolated the Enugu Airport (from Brazil to Ethiopia to Enugu Airport) for their drug transaction and they disseminate drugs all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, he said.

He said that it was ironic for the civilians that trafficked the drugs to be freed from prison because they entered into a plea bargain with the NDLEA which is an agency of the federal government.

“The people that imported drugs, the drugs were not concealed, they were tendered in court; and the people that imported such demonic and dangerous substances to be circulated to our children will walk (out of prison), while the people that intercepted them for prosecution are now being prosecuted.

“Authorities at the NDLEA and the Federal Correctional Services have confirmed that the duo of Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne, who pleaded guilty in court to charges of peddling hard and illicit drugs, entered into plea bargain with the NDLEA to serve just 16 months in prison as against 28 years that their offence ordinarily ought to have earned them”.

It could be recalled that the Policemen serving in the IRT arrested Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne, at the car park of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu on January 19, 2022, following a tip-off by a whistle blower.

The two drug peddlers had successfully evaded NDLEA and other security agents at the airport and were are the verge of leaving the airport vicinity when the police officers on the IRT unexpectedly apprehended them and the drugs they had just ferried into the country.

Findings have also shown that the plea bargain with the drug couriers and their early release from prison may be breeding tension between the Police and the NDLEA.

A senior Police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity insisted in a chat that their colleagues may have been shortchanged in the drug burst and demanded that the Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, prevail on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to order a high-level probe of the handling of the matter by the leadership of the NDLEA.

“Something is not right about this case at all. The police had swooped on the two after the whistle-blower revealed all their movements and activities right from Brazil to Ethiopia and Nigeria via the Enugu Airport. They arrived at Enugu Airport with over 21kg of drugs full to the brim in their 2 carry-on bags. Shockingly, despite the presence of all security agents including the men of the NDLEA at the airport, they were cleared,” the Police Officer added.

A number of Senior Police Officers are said to be particularly worried about the condition of ACP Sunday Ubua and his family.

According to them, Ubua, who was the Second-in-Command at the IRT, according them, knew next to nothing about the incident but currently being prosecuted and persecuted because he refused to ‘cooperate’ with the NDLEA against DCP Abba Kyari.

“He is languishing in prison while his wife is the hospital down with cancer and nobody is taking care of the children. This is so sad,” the Senior Police Officer added.