For daring to import 24 Kilogrammes of Cocaine into Nigeria unlawfully, Justice Nicholas Oweibo of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday ordered a vessel, MV Cooper Island, to be detained by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) till August 17, 2023,
The trial Judge also ordered that the Master of the Vessel and 19 other crew-members on board the vessel be arrested and detained by the anti-narcotic agency till the conclusion of investigation on the alleged crime.
MV Cooper Island was first intercepted on July 6, 2023 at Tin Can Island Seaport, Lagos. She was said to be carrying sugar from Brazil.l, but on physical examination, 24 Kilogrames of Cocaine was seized aboard the vessel.
Those ordered to be detained are; Krasnoperov Oleksi, the Master of the Vessel; Enesa Julio (Jnr) Pedrogosa; Nonan Ulysses Doria; Duran Niel Stephen Dias; Frugalidad Francis Cabaluna; Akulov Oleg; Emano Marlon Acut; Sarmiento Neco Manalo; Pantukan Michael Constatino; and Guion Aguinaldo Villas.
Others include: Torino Jhundhel Adang; Alado Elpe De Pedro; Empedrado Ryan De Jesus; Liquit Niel Morris Auxtero; Tupas Risan Jub Sola Valencia Ceaser Jr. Carbagon; Peralta Jestoni Dalida; Teljona Elvis Urag; Loreno Regino Jr. Salaum and Adelanter Louie Luis Lapascau.
The judge made the orders while granting an Exparte motion marked FHC/L/CS/1458/2023, filed and moved by counsel to the NDLEA, Mr. Abu Ibrahim.
Moving the motion for the orders, Mr. Abu told the court that the application was brought pursuant to Sections 44(2)(k), 35(1)(C) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); Sections 3(1)(a)(C), 32(C), 33, 34, 36 and 41(b)(iii) of the NDLEA Act Cap. N30 LFN 2004, and under the court’s Inherent Jurisdiction.
He said the ground for the orders sought for were “that 24 Kilogrames of Cocaine was seized aboard the Vessel MV COOPER ISLAND on July 6, 2023 at Tin Can Island Seaport, Lagos.
“That the NDLEA is investigating a case of unlawful importation and transporting of 24 Kilogrammes of Cocaine to Nigeria in conjunction with Interpol and other foreign collaborators.”
According to an affidavit filed in support of the application and deposed to by Nnanna Alamezie, who said he was informed by Ohilebo Erale Sunday, in the course of investigation in respect of matter, that the NDLEA received intelligence from its International Partners that there was large consignment of Cocaine aboard the Vessel MV Cooper Island, being transported to Nigeria.
“That the NDLEA working in close collaboration with the Nigeria Navy, Ports Security/Law Enforcement and other relevant agencies/officials was able to intercept the Vessel MV COOPER ISLAND and upon search, substances suspected to be Cocaine was recovered aboard the Vessel.
“That the substance after test, tested positive for Cocaine with a combined weight of 24 Kilograms, when they were subjected to a preliminary test by the NDLEA Exhibit Officer in person of Bonnie Wisdom.
“That the testing and weighing of the substances were documented and signed by the NDLEA Exhibit Officer, the Vessel Master and some Crew members of the Vessel MV COOPER ISLAND.
The document is hereby attached as Exhibit NDLEA 1 while the list of the Crew members of the Vessel MV COOPER ISLAND is also hereby attached as Exhibit NDLEA 2.
The NDLEA added that the seized substance confirmed to be Cocaine is a prohibited substance under both international law and the domestic Laws of Nigeria. And that the Captain and Crew members of the MV Cooper Island arrested in connection with the case did not provide any evidence of permit and / or authority to transport and / or import the recovered Cocaine to Nigeria.
It was further averred that the Captain and Crew members of the MV Cooper Island have made useful extra-judicial statements that is aiding the investigation of the case.
“That the Vessel MV Cooper Island was used as an instrumentality to commit the offences of unlawful transportation and importation of the seized Cocaine and therefore liable to forfeiture under both international and Nigerian laws.
“That investigation is currently ongoing with the view to establishing the extent of culpability or innocence of those arrested in connection with the Cocaine seizure. And that the NDLEA requires more time to carry out the comprehensive investigation required by the complexity of this case.
“That the order of this Honourable Court is therefore required for the interim attachment of the Vessel MV COOPER ISLAND to regularize the seizure of the Vessel by the NDLEA, the continuous detention of the arrested Crew members pending investigation, filing of criminal charge and prosecution of the case.
“That I was further informed by Abu Ibrahim, Esq. a Counsel in the Directorate of Prosecution and Legal Services of the NDLEA (Applicant) at No. 4, Shaw Road, Ikoyi, Lagos on the 25th July, 2023, that the NDLEA has the statutory powers to seize any property incidental to an arrest or search for an offence provided for under the NDLEA Act and place such property under seal pending the conclusion of investigation and or prosecution of the case.
“That the Court has the power to grant the Applicant such a longer period to detain persons reasonably suspected to have committed an offence under the NDLEA Act pending investigation and prosecution. And that the order of the Court is necessary to prevent the escape of the Vessel and its Crew members during the investigation and/ or prosecution of the case.
“That the order being sought from this Court is merely preservatory. And that the proprietary interest of the suspects is still protected by the statute.
That the interim orders being sought does not breach the suspects right to fair hearing. And that the Vessel Master and the other Crew members will not be prejudice by the grant of the application. That it is in the interest of the public and justice to grant this application.”
After hearing the NDLEA counsel on the application, Justice Oweibo ruled that: “the application is granted as prayed
The judge subsequently adjourned the matter till August 17, for reports of investigation