The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), on Tuesday, gave reasons it resorted to the trial of the suspended DCP Abba Kyari and his co-defendants behind closed doors.
Counsel for the NDLEA, Mr Sunday Joseph, told newsmen who were barred from covering the sitting shortly after the case was adjourned by Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court, Abuja.
Joseph, who said there was security concern about the trial, said the class of witnesses brought to court were undercover witnesses who needed to be protected.
“You see, some of these trials where there are security concern and then we agreed among the lawyers; both myself and the defendants.
“These are class of witnesses that needed to be protected; they are undercover witnesses,” he said.
When asked whether such act would not prevent the public from knowing what transpired in court, he said: “That is why, you know I don’t grant press interview.
“That is why I made an exception to tell you,” he said.
On what happened in the courtroom, Joseph, a director of Legal and ProsecutionDepartment of the NDLEA, said the testimony of an additional witness was taken.
The lawyer said bank documents he sought to be tendered as exhibits were opposed to by the defendants and he responded.
“So ruling of the court is reserved on the admissibility of the evidence we sought to tender to 9 June,” he said.
Mr Michael Mbanefo, lawyer to the 3rd defendant (ASP Bawa James), also told newsmen that evidence of one of the witnesses was taken “but it was scuttled by the documents they wanted to tender which we opposed vehemently. So the case adjourned for ruling.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) had earlier reported that journalists were restrained from covering the trial of Kyari and his co-defendants, following the NDLEA’s application to the effect.
Besides, other lawyers, whose matters were listed on the cause list, were also directed to leave the courtroom for Kyari’s case.
Shortly after the NDLEA’s lawyer made the application, Justice Nwite stood down the hearing to allow lawyers, litigants, visitors, including the journalists move out of the courtroom.
The registrar then announced to lawyers ,who had no business in Kyari’s case to step forward and take another date for their cases.
The development generated provocation from lawyers who waited until the judge reconvened.
When Justice Nwite sat to commence proceeding, one of the lawyers, Emmanuel Oluwabiyi, whose case was on number 11 on the cause list, told Nwite that he was in the court for his matter.
Oluwabiyi said he observed that before the judge rose, counsel for the NDLEA made an application.
“I understand that it was directed that everybody in the courtroom should step out because of the instant matter. The bar is also meant to be vacated.
“The feedback I am getting is that when this matter is going to be made, no lawyer should be in
“I am embarrassed by the application my lord,” he said.
Another lawyer, Mr Ramiah Imhanaede, also aligned with Oluwabiyi’s submission.
Justice Nwite then pleaded with lawyers who were not in the Kyari’s matter to bear with the court in the interim.
He said their matters too would be heard as soon as hearing was over.
NAN reports that Kyari and other police officers, who are on suspension, are being charged by the anti-narcotic agency on allegations bordering on tampering and dealing with part of the 21.8 kilogrammes of cocaine recovered from two convicts.
The four accused police officers include ACP Sunday J. Ubia, ASP Bawa James, Inspector Simon Agirigba and Inspector John Nuhu listed as 2nd to 5th defendants respectively.
The NDLEA accused the police officers, who had been on suspension pending the hearing and determination of the matter, of alleged compromise.
They were arraigned alongside Chibunna Umeibe and Emeka Ezenwanne, who conspired with some other persons (now at large), to trafficked the hard drugs into the country.
Umeibe and Ezenwanne were said to have been arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu by the Inspector General of Police (IGP)’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by Kyari based on their suspicious trafficking in harddrugs.
The suspects were subsequently brought to Abuja and handed over to the NDLEA for further investigation.
Although the two suspects pleaded guilty to the counts preferred against them bordering on importation of 21.35kg of cocaine into the country, the police officers on trial pleaded not guilty to all the counts against them.
The court, on June 14, 2022, convicted and sentenced Umeibe and Ezenwanne to two years imprisonment.