Three top officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have been indicted in an alleged N3.7 million bribery scandal.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has summoned the three officials following the bribery allegation by a convict, Mrs. Fatima Hassan.
Justice Akintayo Aluko invited the Lagos State Commander of the agency, Umar Isa Adoro; the Officer-in-Charge (O/C) of Squad A (Chief Superintendent of Narcotics, CSN) Quatu Mohammed and one ‘Officer Sanni’ to respond to the claim.
Mrs Hassan, a mother of three, alleged that Sanni, who she described as the IPO (Investigative Officer) for her case, extorted N3.7 million from her family.
She alleged that she was in the NDLEA’s custody for allegedly unlawfully dealing in Cannabis Sativa, otherwise known as Indian Hemp.
She said Sanni asked for the money under the guise of using same to facilitate her bail for a drug-related offence, but that she was neither granted bail nor was the sum returned to her.
She told the court that the NDLEA declared N2.7million of the sum as proceeds of crime, while it kept back N1million.
The allegations arose in the course of Hassan’s prosecution by the NDLEA on charge marked FHC/L/CS/290C/2022 before Justice Aluko.
She was arraigned on a one-count charge of dealing in 33.5 kg of Cannabis Sativa without lawful authority, contrary to and punishable under Section 11(c) of the NDLEA Act.
Hassan pleaded guilty and was convicted.
In the course of reviewing the facts of the case, prosecution counsel LN. Nor sought to tender eight exhibits, including a monetary sum of N2.5 million in N1000 notes, described as a proceed of crime.
He was opposed by defence counsel O. Ojakovo, who sought the return of N3.7m to the convict’s family.
Ojakovo said: “The monetary exhibit was not recovered from the Defendant. It was the officer of the Agency that told the relations of the Defendant to raise money in the sum of N2.5 million for the Defendant to be released on bail.
The family members of the Defendant went to borrow the money and are still servicing the loan to date. The money is actually N3.7 million given to the officer and not N2.5 million.
“The officer said it is only N2.5 million he has with him and we said it is ok. The officer is known as Mr. Sanni. It will be unfair, unjust, and inhuman to classify the sum as proceed of crime.
“We will make the necessary application for the return of the money to the family of the Defendant.”
But Nor insisted that the money was a crime proceed.
He said: “The said sum of N2.5 million is a proceed of dealing in drugs which PW1 9Prosecution witness 1) mentioned in his evidence. By Sections 31, 32, 33, 34 NDLEA Act, the money is subject to seizure. The money was brought to the office of the Agency as part of the proceeds of crime. The money was brought to obstruct the cause of justice which is an offence by section 39 of the NDLEA Act. The money i.e. N2.5 million is a relevant fact to the charge of drug dealing. We urge the Court to admit same in evidence.”
He was supported by PW1, who, upon questioning by the court, said “On the 6/6/23, the O/C squad A in the person of Quatu Mohammed (CSN) handed over the money to me as a proceed of crime in connection with the case of the Defendant. That is all I know about the money.”
Justice Aluko also questioned Mrs. Hassan about the money.
“The money is actually N3.7 million. The officer said my family should bring N3.7 million for bail. My family brought the sum of N3.7 million and they did not release me. My family members are in Court,” Hassan answered.
She repeated her claim under cross-examination by the prosecution.
Prosecuting Counsel: “Defendant, you directed your mother to bring money from where you kept it to bribe the officers?
Hassan: “No, it was the officer named Sanni who asked my family to bring the money for my bail.
Did you or your family report to any superior officer or the Police?
Defendant: “Yes, I made a report to Officer Hamza Ibrahim at Ikeja where we were kept at the time.”
Hassan’s husband, Bamidele Ogunkoya, corroborated her claim under oath.
He added: “Officer Sanni told the other three officers that the money was N2.5 million. Sanni gave only N2.5 million to the Commander. The Commander said they should go and bring the Defendant from Ikeja to Gbagada. When we got to the Commander, the Commander said he has no power to release the Defendant when he read the charge. The name of the Commander is Umar Adoro. He said we should go and that we will meet in court. Since that day if I call Officer Sanni, he would not pick up my call.”
Justice Aluko upheld the prosecution’s argument that the money ought to be admitted as an exhibit.
He added: “Further proceedings shall be conducted on the circumstances surrounding the money and how it got to the custody of the Agency. For now, the money is admissible in evidence.”
The judge sentenced Mrs. Hassan to four years imprisonment on the one count charge with an option of payment of a fine in the sum of N1million.
He said the sentence “shall run from the date of the arrest and detention of the convict. If the convict elects to pay a fine, in addition, the convict is sentenced to perform community service by picking up refuse, sweeping and clearing drainages under Eti-Osa LGA Lagos for a period of one month. She shall perform community service for 1 hour daily for 2 days of each week for 4 weeks. The convict shall produce a guarantor who shall undertake to produce her if she absconds from such service.”
About the money, he added: “In the main time, I order that the monetary exhibit shall be deposited in the Bank by the DCR in an interest-yielding account until further directives.
“I order that the persons mentioned in the course of the proceedings as Quatu Mohammed (CSM) officer Sanni the (IPO) and Umar Isa, Lagos State Commander of the NDLEA ACGN, in charge of Lagos State ‘Command of the Agency shall appear in court at the next date, to explain what they know about the circumstances sum of N2.Sm in this case.
“Case is adjourned to 11/10/2023 for further proceedings on the issue surrounding the alleged monetary exhibit.