Drug dealer, workers bag 75-year jail term
• NDLEA Appeals Against ‘Ridiculous’ Option Of Fine For Convicts
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 City, the Edo State capital.
The convicts were charged in July by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on a five-count charge number FHC/B/107c/2021 bordering on possession of 183.5 kilogrammes (kg) of cannabis Sativa, conspiracy to possess, cultivate and cultivation of 22 hectares of cannabis farms.
Delivering judgment in the case last Thursday, Justice A.C. Obiozor sitting in Court Two 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 N 700,000 fine on all the counts.
Meanwhile, Chairman/Chief Executive of the agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (rtd) has directed that immediate appeal be filed at the appellate court against the option of fine granted the convicts by the trial judge.
NDLEA operatives had on July 1, 2021, stormed the Ughieudu forest in Uhunwonde local council of Edo State, where six persons: Elijah John, Friday Emma, Itoro Emmanuel, Daniel Emmanuel, Udom Etok and Abraham Monday Thompson were arrested with 50kg of cannabis. A follow-up operation in the Ughieudu forest on July 3 led to the arrest of Emmanuel Ekpeyoung and the total destruction of three cannabis farms with a combined size of 22.210421 hectares and seizure of 133. 5kg of cannabis.
After weeks of the 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.
In a related development, the anti-narcotic agency has filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice D.E. Osiagor who sentenced two defendants, Clement Ajayi and Bolaji Fajebe, to three years imprisonment or a fine of N3,000 and two years imprisonment or a fine of N2,000, respectively, on the two counts charge of conspiracy and dealing in illicit drugs filed against them in charge number FHC/L/199C/2021.
In a three-ground notice of appeal dated October 15, 2021, signed by the NDLEA’s Director of Prosecution and Legal Services, Mr. Joseph Sunday and filed at the Lagos Division of the court, the agency contended that the October 8th judgment by Justice Osiagor, which gave the two convicts option of N3,000 and N2,000 fine was “ridiculous, unwarrantable, unjustifiable and contrary to the public interest”
It 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.”