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NDLEA to appeal option of fine as cannabis dealers bag 75 years imprisonment

NDLEA to appeal option of fine as cannabis dealers bag 75 years imprisonment
October 15
22:42 2021

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says it will appeal the decision of a court to grant five persons convicted of dealing in cannabis, the option of fine.

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Femi Babafemi, NDLEA spokesman, disclosed this in a statement on Friday.

The development comes three months after the convicts were arrested.

According to him, five persons were convicted of dealing in cannabis and sentenced to 15 years each on a five-count charge, but they were also said to have been given the option of N700,000 fine on each of the counts.

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“A major drug dealer, Mike Omoarukhe, his manager and three other workers in his cannabis farms have been sentenced to 75 years imprisonment by a Federal High Court in Benin, the Edo state capital,” the statement reads.

“The convicts were charged in July by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in a five count charge number FHC/B/107c/2021 bordering on possession of 183.5 kilograms of cannabis sativa, conspiracy to possess, cultivate and cultivation of 22 hectares of cannabis farms.

“Delivering his judgement in the case on Thursday, 14th October, Justice A.C. Obiozor sitting in Court 2 of the Federal High Court, Benin Judicial Division, sentenced the defendants to 15 years on each of the five counts, bringing the total years of imprisonment to 75 years, which will run concurrently. The judge however gave the convicts an option of Seven Hundred Thousand Naira (N700,000) fine on all the counts.

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“Meanwhile, Chairman/Chief Executive of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), has directed that immediate appeal be filed at the appellate court against the option of N700,000 fine granted the convicts by the trial judge.”

According to the NDLEA, its operatives had, on July 1, arrested five persons — Elijah John, Friday Emma, Itoro Emmanuel, Daniel Emmanuel, Udom Etok and Abraham Monday Thompson — at Ughieudu forest in Uhunwonde LGA of Edo state, with 50kg of cannabis.

The agency said another operation on July 3 in Ughieudu forest led to the arrest of one Emmanuel Ekpeyoung and the destruction of “three cannabis farms with a combined size of 22.210421 hectares and seizure of 133.5kg cannabis”.

“After weeks of manhunt for the owner of the farms, the 36-year-old Omoarukhe was later arrested at a drinking joint in Irrua, after which they were all charged to court, except two of them, Udom Etok and Abraham Monday Thompson, who were discovered to be minors,” Babafemi added.

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In another development, the NDLEA said it has also filed an appeal against the judgement of a federal high court in Lagos against two defendants, Clement Ajayi and Bolaji Fajebe, who were sentenced to three years imprisonment and given an option of fine on “two counts charge of conspiracy and dealing in illicit drugs”.

Describing the fine as “ridiculous”, the NDLEA said a three-ground notice of appeal dated October 15, and signed by Joseph Sunday, the agency’s director of prosecution and legal services, “contended that the October 8th judgement by Justice [D.E.] Osiagor of giving the two convicts option of N3,000 and N2,000 fine is ridiculous, unwarrantable, unjustifiable and contrary to public interest”.

“It was further submitted that the trial judge did not provide any reason for awarding the ridiculous penalty, which is contrary to Section 14 of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 LFN 2004 which prescribes a penalty of not less than 15 years and not exceeding 25 years of imprisonment for the offence,” the statement reads.

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