A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has remanded a Nigerian, Isiaka Musa, and two Guineans, Traore Djakouba and Mohammed Berete, accused of attempting to smuggle elephant tusks and pangolin scales and claws worth N22.3bn.
Justice Tijjani Ringim made the order following the trio’s arraignment by the Nigerian Customs Service on five charges of conspiracy and attempt to export the items without lawful authority, which contravened Section 64(1)(b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act, 2004.
The prosecution counsel, Smart Akande identified the defendants as residents of No. 10, Ijeoma Odika Street, Atlantic View Estate, New Road, off Lekki-Ajah Expressway, Lagos.
Akande alleged that they were arrested on July 28, 2021, with 196 sacks of pangolin scales weighing 7137.40kg; one sack of pangolin claws weighing 4.60kg; and 29 sacks of elephant tusks weighing 870.4kg, worth N22.3bn, which they had prepared for exportation.
However, the other suspects, Muyribein Bereye and Sediki Berete, were said to be on the run.
The defendants, with the aid of an interpreter, pleaded not guilty to the offences charged.
After applying for a trial date, Akande prayed the court to remand the trio in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services pending the determination of the charges against them.
However, the defense counsel, Mr Olayinka Lawal, opposed the prosecutor, arguing that the court ought to go ahead and hear the defendants’ bail application which was filed and served on the prosecution on July 18, when the defendants were first brought to court.
In response, Akande said, “We admit being served the bail processes but it was not ripe for hearing, as the defendants had not yet been arraigned at the time we were served.”
Akande also prayed the court for time to file a counter to the application, owing to the gravity of the offence and the nationality of the defendants.
In a bench ruling, the judge upheld the prosecution’s argument, noting that it was within time to respond to the defendants’ applications.
Justice Ringim remanded the trio in the custody of the Nigeria Customs Service and adjourned till September 1, 2021 to hear the defendants’ bail applications.Follow us on social media