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Court acquits Okada rider falsely accused of drug deals

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By Felix Kuyinu

A commercial motorcyclist has gained freedom from trial after being wrongly accused of being involved in drug illicit deals.

The acquitted, Reuben Ashade, faced trial at the Lagos State High Court, Ikoyi, following a charge filed against him by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA.

At the court on February 8, the presiding judge, Justice Akintayo Aluko, discharged and acquitted Ashade disclosing that there’s was no evidence linking him with the crime.

The judge found that the facts of the case, the NDLEA’s evidence and Ashade’s testimony showed that he was not guilty of the of­fence, despite his initial guilty plea.

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Ashade, who was arrested in Ashipa, Seme border was said to have seen with 2kg of marijuana on November 26, 2023, at Gbaji Village, Badagry Local Government in Lagos, an act said to be in contrary to and punishable under Section 11c of the NDLEA Act, 2004.

During prosecution, Ashade pleaded guilty, and the case was adjourned for a review of the facts and sentencing.

When the court resumed, Justice Aluko enquired from the defendant why he com­mitted the offence. In response, he denied do­ing what he was charged with.

He said: “I am an oka­da rider who operates within Badagry and Seme border. A cer­tain man engaged my services to carry him to Badagry from the border which was what I and other okada riders do.

“He boarded my bike and, as we were going, we saw a Customs checkpoint. The man jumped down from the bike, left his bag and ran away.

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“I then explained to the Cus­toms personnel that I did not know him before neither knew what was in the bag he carried.”

Asked why he initially Ashade pleaded guilty, Ashade said that he was told to do so.

The judge then perused Ashade’s statement tendered by the NDLEA and discovered that it was identical to what he said in open court.

Consequently, he set aside Ashade’s guilty plea and dis­charged and acquitted him.

Justice Aluko held: “I have considered the plea of the defen­dant and the evidence of PW1. I have examined the exhibits be­fore the Court. The prosecutor through the PW1 tendered the Statement of the defendant in evidence.

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“As it relates to the intention to commit the offence, the relevant evidence is the statement of the defendant which the prosecutor tendered through PW1

“The other exhibits tendered are only to prove that this sub­stance is Indian hemp. Exhibits A, B, D, E, F, G & G1 only proved that the substance is Indian hemp. They don’t prove that the defendant committed the offence of dealing in cannabis as contained in the charge.

“The only evidence which has to do with intention to commit the offence is exhibit C which is the statement of the defendant tendered by the prosecutor. So, exhibit C is the prosecutor’s evi­dence, and the said exhibit is the defendant’s statement.

“The defendant is only an Okada rider who carried the passenger, who was in possession of the substance without know­ing that what he was carrying was Indian hemp. His statement suggests that when they got to a customs checkpoint, the passen­ger jumped down and started running.

” With all being said, no need to proceed with the prosecution as there is no evidence backing the accusations by the NDLEA. So I pronounce you, Reuben Ashade, discharged and acquitted”.

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