The Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed October 6 for the trial of a billionaire industrialist Afamefuna Mallinson Ukatu and his worker, Sunday Ifeanyi Ibekwute, on a banned drug charge.
Ukatu is the Managing Director of Mallinson & Partners Ltd, whom the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) alleged imported two containers containing 1,284 cartons of Tramadol worth N22billion in 2019.
The agency also claimed he was behind a N3billion shipment of tramadol linked to the suspended police chief, Abba Kyari.
Justice Peter Lifu fixed the date after upholding Ukatu and Ibekwute’s bail applications filed during their arraignment on July 10, 2022.
Both defendants were admitted to bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in the like sum.
One of the sureties, according to the judge, must be an industrialist, specifically, a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), who must be a landed property owner within the court’s jurisdiction.
The second surety must be a Grade Level 15 official either in a Federal or Lagos State establishment.
The judge also ordered the defendants to deposit their international passports with the court’s registry and to file an affidavit of dual citizenship if they hold more than Nigerian nationality.
The judge further directed both defendants to be reporting to the NDLEA every 14 days till the determination of the charges against them.
The court’s registrars, the judge added, should verify that they complied with the bail terms.
Mr. Benson Ndakara, who is counsel for another defendant in the case, Pius Enidom, assured the court that he would try and produce Enidom in court to continue his trial.
Ndakara, expressing disappointment with Enidom’s attitude, told the judge that he had sent his partner to Anambra State to find the defendant.
At the last hearing on a jury 10, the NDLEA brought billionaire and worker before the judge on allegations of conspiracy, trafficking in 322 kilogrammes of Tramadol, unlawful dealing and possession of the said banned drug, in a charge marked FHC/L/159c/2021.
It was alleged that on May 4, 2021, Ukatu, Ibekwute and one Pius Enidom, who the prosecution claimed was on the run, conspired to commit the offences.
Prosecution counsel Mrs. Theresa Asuquo told the court that the alleged offences contravened Sections 14(b); 11 and 11(b) of the NDLEA Act, 2004.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty. Their counsel, Mr. Emeka Opara (SAN) applied for their bail, saying they would not abscond.
Opara told the court that Mallinson was an industrialist in partnership with the Nigerian Airforce and was also a mass employer of labour, adding that the Ibekwute was one of the first defendant’s employees.
But Asuquo opposed him, arguing that they were a flight risk.
Justice Lifu remanded both defendants in the NCoS’ custody and adjourned till yesterday for ruling on their bail applications.
The judge also issued a Bench warrant against Enidom, following his failure to appear in court despite being issued a hearing notice.