A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday convicted and sentenced a businessman, Obidike Onodyer, to seven years imprisonment for importing 485 grammes of cocaine.
Justice Ayokunle Faji handed down the sentence on Onodyer following a six-year trial in the course of which Onodyer changed his “not guilty” plea to “guilty.”
Onodyer was arrested by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)on August 5, 2015 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos during an outward clearance of passengers on Royal Air Maroc from Brazil enroute Casablanca to Lagos.
The anti-narcotic agency through its prosecutor, Mrs Juliana Iraobuchi, subsequently filed a one-count charge against Onodyer for unlawful importation of the banned substance in a charge marked FHC/L/40c/15 dated September 29, 2015.
Following his arraignment, Onodyer pleaded not guilty and was granted bail.
While on bail, Onodyer was said to have committed another offence by lying to the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) and obtained another international passport in place of the one confiscated on the order of the court.
As the trial proceeded, he abandoned trial, following which the court revoked his bail.
Onodyer was re-arrested and remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services, NCS in November 2018.
At the resumption of his trial, Onodyer was said to have committed yet another offence by procuring a fake medical certificate to apply for bail on medical ground.
But his luck ran out when the prosecutor proved to the court that the certificate was forged.
Midway in the trial, Onodyer applied for a plea bargain but this was unsuccessful.
He then opted to change his plea from not guilty to guilty on July 16, 2021.
The court upheld his application, upon which the prosecutor reviewed the facts of the case.
In reviewing the facts, Iraobuchi tendered 10 exhibits in support of the prosecution’s case and prayed the court to convict the defendant as charged.
But defence counsel Adebayo Onifade made an allocutus praying the court to temper justice with mercy, adding that the convict had become remorseful for his actions, and had promised to turn a new leaf, hence the change of plea.
In sentencing the convict, Justice Faji said the term should run from November 2018 when Onodyer’s bail was revoked,
The judge also ordered that the new international passport which he fraudulently procured should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Faji specifically directed the NDLEA to write the agency so that they can take necessary steps to ensure that the passport is not valid.
The judge condemned the criminal acts of the convict who only change his plea after wasting the court’s “precious time for six years.”
The one count charge reads “That you Obidike Onodyer, male, adult on or about the 5th day of August, 2015 during the outward clearance of passengers on Royal Marroc Airline from Brazil through Casablanca to Nigeria at the ‘D’ Arrival Hall Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable court, without lawful authority imported cocaine weighing 485 grammes and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11(a) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Act, Cap N 30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.