Why We Resorted to Behind Closed Doors Trial in Abba Kyari’s Case- NDLEA
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.
The 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, added that the class of witnesses brought to Court were undercover witnesses who needed to be protected.
“You see, in some of these trials there are security concerns 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 an act would not prevent the public from knowing what transpired in Court, he said: “That is why, you know I don’t grant press interviews.
“That is why I made an exception to tell you.”
On what happened in the Courtroom, Joseph, a director of the Legal and Prosecution Department 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 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 third 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, and visitors, including the journalists, to 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 a proceeding, one of the lawyers, Emmanuel Oluwabiyi, whose case was 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, the 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 Kyari’s matter to bear with the Court in the interim.
He said their matters too would be heard as soon as the hearing was over.
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 kilograms 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 are listed as second to fifth 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 traffick 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 (IG)’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by Kyari based on their suspicious trafficking in hard drugs.
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 the 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.
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