By Lukman Olabiyi
A former convicted drug dealer, Igwe Okoye Onwukwe, has again been convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour by the Federal High Court, Lagos, for smuggling 32.400 kilogrammes of cannabis sativa, popularly called marijuana to the United Kingdom (UK).
Okoye, who claimed to be clearing agent, was in November 2020, convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment, by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the same court for smuggling 1.64 kilogrammes of Cannabis Sativa.
He was, however, given an option of fine of N500, 000.
Not quite long after he was released from prison after paying the fine option, he was rearrested again on October 15, 2021, by the operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for attempting to export 34.400 kilogrammes of the banned substance.
Following his arrest, he was brought before Justice Peter Lifu on a three-count-charge of conspiracy, unlawful exportation of the banned weed, and procuring Ikechukwu kelvin to unlawfully export the same banned weed.
The prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, during the convict’s arraignment, told the court that the convict was arrested with the 16, 550 kilogrammes of prohibited weeds, on October 15, 2021, at Export Shed, a Customs point at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, during the clearance of cargoes to London, United Kingdom.
The prosecutor told the court that the convict conspired with the duo of Ezeugo’ and ‘James Darren’ of Peckham, United kingdom, (both now at large), to engage in the illicit act.
Abu also told the court that the convict procured Ikechukwu Kelvin on October 20, 2021, to illegally export 15.850 kilogrammes of the banned weed.
He told the court that the offences committed by the convict contravened sections 14 (b); 19 and 21(2)(d) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of 2004, and punishable under the same Act.
The convict had denied the allegations when he was first arraigned before the court sometime in November 2021. But midway into his trial, he changed his plea and admitted to committing the nefarious acts.
Following his admission to the commission of the crimes, the prosecutor reviewed the facts of the crimes, as well, and tendered several exhibits.
In his allucutor, the convict told the court that as a clearing agent, though not a registered one, he was deceived by his clients, who were the owners of the prohibited cargoes.
His counsel, Adebayo Onifade, also pleaded with the court to be merciful to his client in sentencing him because of his five children, wife and aged mother. He particularly urged the court to consider the option of fine in lieu of the custodian sentence.
The claim was rebuffed by the prosecutor, who told the court that the convict was one of the specialized clearing agents, who use drug barons to smuggle drugs.
The prosecutor told the court that the convict, during interrogation, told investigators how he was paid for the job.
Justice Lifu, after hearing parties’ submissions, dismissed the convict’s plea and the allucutor made by his counsel.
The judge, consequently, sentenced him to two years imprisonment with hard labour, in each of the counts.
The judge, however, ordered that the jail terms should run concurrently, commencing from October 15, 2022, when he changed his plea.