A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has refused bail to Kehinde Ashekun, a former Vice Chairman of Lagos Island East Local Council Development Area, over his alleged involvement in drug trafficking.

Ashekun, popularly called Owoiya, was arrested on May 7, 2021, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Ikeja, Lagos, by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency for attempting to smuggle 1.0 kilograms of Cocaine concealed in footwear from Nigeria to London.

File photo used to illustrate story.

The NDLEA had arraigned the accused before the court on June 30, on a count charge bordering on unlawful exportation of the narcotics. 

According to the prosecutor, Abu Ibrahim, the offence contradicted Section 11(b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same Act.

Upon his arraignment, Asheku had denied the allegation and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Following his plea, his bail application was argued by his counsel, Olasupo Shasore, which was strongly opposed by the prosecutor, while the court adjourned till Friday (today) for the ruling.

Justice Ayokunle Olayinka Faji, dismissed Ashekun's bail application on the basis that it was lacking in merit and ordered an accelerated trial.

The court also dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit, filed by the embattled ex-council chief against the NDLEA, also for been abandoned as argued by the prosecutor, Ibrahim.

The judge consequently ordered that the former Vice Chairman be returned to the custody of Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), adjourned the matter till July 22, for commencement of trial.

The charge against the former Council chairman reads, "That you Asekun Sakiru Kehinde, Male, Adult, on or about the 7th May 2021 during the outward clearance of passengers on Virgin Atlantic Airlines flight from Lagos to London, Heathrow at the Departure Hall of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos without lawful authority exported 1.000 kilogrammes of Cocaine, a narcotic drug and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 11(b) of the said National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

According to the agency, a preliminary investigation revealed that the London-based suspected drug baron is a seasoned politician.

He was at different times between 2004 and 2014 the vice-chairman of Lagos Island East LCDA. He had also contested and lost elections for the House of Representatives in 2007 and the Lagos State House of Assembly in 2015.

Also, a statement issued by the NDLEA said the suspect had been on the agency's wanted list following the recent arrest of some traffickers and drug seizures linked to him.

The statement signed by the agency's spokesman, Femi Babafemi, had read, “The long arm of the law however caught up with the wanted baron at about 9.40 pm on Friday, 7th May, 2021 while trying to board a Virgin Atlantic Airline flight to London, the United Kingdom at the Lagos airport.

“At the point of his arrest, Asekun was caught with a kilogramme of cocaine concealed in five pairs of palm slippers packed inside his suitcase.

“He has been on the wanted list of the MMIA Command of the Agency in connection to a case involving one Azeez Adeniyi Ibrahim, who was arrested with 6.45kg of cocaine in December 2020.”

NDLEA added, “Although he claims to be an international businessman who deals in automobiles, the investigation is yet to confirm that to be the source of his acquired wealth.

“In the course of tracking him, the sum of N131 million was seized from his account and another N14 million also blocked in the account of one of his traffickers, Azeez Adeniyi Ibrahim, bringing the total sum recovered from him to N145 million.”

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