The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Tuesday upturned the conviction of Bello Lafiaji, the former Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). The court ruled that there was no enough evidence to convict Lafiaji and therefore quashed all charges of fraud and abuse of office against him.
The former NDLEA Chairman was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment by the Lagos High Court in 2010 after the Independent and Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) dragged him and his Special Assistant, Usman Amali to court on a seven count charge of abuse of office and conspiracy.
Back then, the ICPC had alleged that a sum of € 164,300 seized from one Ikenna Onochie, a drug suspect was diverted by Lafiaji and his aide.
The suspect however claimed that it was € 165,000 that was missing. The said money was part of the exhibits seized from Onochie’s house in his Maryland, Lagos when he was arrested for being in possession of 3.2 kg of cocaine and heroin in 2005.
Samuel Gadzama, an NDLEA officer testified that Lafiaji instructedhim to release Onochie and his confiscated property the same day he was arrested while he was also instructed not to document the arrest and seizure on the ground that the suspect was a friend of the NDLEA.
The ICPC made investigations and discovered that Ikenna Onochie was arrested and released on the 3rd of December, 2005, which was a public holiday. It was found out in the course of the investigation that the release did not follow due process.
In the course of the trial, an MTN call list that was tendered in evidence. The call log also revealed that Usman Amali had conversations with Onochie altthough the former denied ever talking with the suspected drug baron.
Onochie however stated that the money seized from his residence was not tendered in court as exhibit and he made a lot of noise about it. When Ahmadu Giade took over as the Chairman, he ordered the investigation of Ikenna Onochie’s allegation and part of the findings was that the officer that led the operation was said to have disclosed that the € 164,300 was recovered and given to Alhaji Lafiaji. Based on the facts before the agency, the case was referred to the ICPC