Nigerian escapes gallows, jailed 18 years for drug possession

The Nigerian had boarded a flight from Lagos to Kuala Lumpur as a friend had apparently told him that spare parts in Malaysia were cheap.

PUTRAJAYA: A Nigerian vehicle spare parts dealer charged with trafficking in 387.6g of methamphetamine today escaped the death penalty due to “misapplication of the law” by the trial judge.

Benjamin Chinedu, 40, was instead sentenced to 18 years in jail and ordered to be given 10 strokes of the rotan for being in possession of the drugs, better known as syabu.

Judge Zaleha Yusof, who chaired a three-member bench of the Federal Court, said there was clear misdirection by the trial judge in the High Court that led to a non-direction in law.

“However, there is overwhelming evidence that the appellant was in possession of the drugs,” said Zaleha. Others on the bench were Hasnah Mohammed Hashim and Rhodzariah Bujang.

Lawyer Afifuddin Ahmad Hafifi said the trial judge, a judicial commissioner, had failed to make a conclusive finding at the close of the defence case as to whether the accused was a presumed trafficker or was presumed to be in possession of the drugs.

“He failed to come to one final finding, which is a great misdirection,” said Afifudin, who was assisted by Muhammad Amirrul Jamaluddin.

For trafficking, one has to have custody, control and knowledge of the drugs whereas for possession one only has to have custody and control. Also, the drugs have to be above a certain weight to fall under trafficking.

The defence then urged the court to acquit Benjamin or alternatively to reduce the charge to possession.

Benjamin was charged with trafficking the drugs at the KLIA in Sepang on July 5, 2012.

Facts of the case revealed that he boarded a flight from Lagos to Kuala Lumpur as a friend had apparently told him that spare parts in Malaysia were cheap.

In his defence, Benjamin had said the drugs that were concealed in a bag were to be given to a friend, identified as John Okeke, by the person who urged him to source the spare parts here.

On March 22, 2017, Benjamin was convicted and sentenced to death and the Court of Appeal affirmed the findings in 2018.

Afifuddin said Benjamin would serve another four years in jail as prisoners would normally be given one-third remission.

“He has served eight years, but will be whipped,” he added.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.