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Drug importation: Court adjourns trial against 7 Indians, others till Jan 21

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A Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, has adjourned till tomorrow, January 21, hearing in a case the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) brought before it against seven Indians and three Nigerians for allegedly smuggling 43.1 kilogrammes of cocaine into the country, last year.

The Indians are Shedrack Yurama, Singh Vikash, Kunnaserypallam Ashraf Inzam, Xaiver Fernando Santhanaria, Mandal Surjeet Ashok, Tandel Pratikkumar Pravinbai and Barthwal Rohan Sunil.

Their Nigerian accomplices are Tobi Ojo, Kunle Animashaun and Omozusi Enorose Terry. A maritime firm, Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited, was also listed as a defendant.

An NDLEA prosecutor, Theresa Asuquo, had arraigned the defendants before the court, presided over by Justice Ayokunle Faji, in June 2021 on two counts of conspiracy and unlawful importation of cocaine, in suit no. FHC/L/100c/2021.

The defendants, arrested by NDLEA agents on February 8, 2021, at the Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos, onboard a vessel named MV SPAR SCORPIO, were alleged to have conspired with Franklyn Pereowei Godwin and Peter Odigie Ozasuwa, said to be at large, to commit the offences.

When the hearing commenced today, Asuquo invited four witnesses to the stand to testify about their involvement in the case. The four witnesses, all banking officers, are Folarin Idris, a compliance officer with Keystone Bank; Oluwamuye Abayomi, a Sterling Bank officer, concerned with law enforcement and regulatory functions; Adaeze Ossaige, First Bank’s Head of Customer Service and Edoro Lawrence, a compliance officer with the Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO).

Esther Ayeni represented the first to fourth defendants as counsel, while Ikigbe Daniels stood for the 5th defendant. Aliu Odoh represented the 6th defendant, while Oluwakemi Atoyebi represented the seventh to 12th defendants. Justice Faji allowed the foreigners to pick their interpreter to ease proceedings.

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The prosecutor invited each of the witnesses to reveal what the NDLEA requested while investigating Tobi Ojo and his fellow defendants. The witnesses told the court that the NDLEA requested from each of them a statement of account, Bank Verification Number (BVN) and certificate of identification details for the respective bank accounts.

Asuquo said she would be inviting six other witnesses to give their testimonies.

After the counsel for the defendants accessed and accepted the respective bank documents, Justice Faji adjourned the hearing till January 21 and 2022 and February 7 and 8, 2022.

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