Singapore — For one Nigerian in Singapore, the Court of Appeal verdict on May 27, Monday, must have brought immeasurable relief. After having been on death row for over two years on drug charges and six years in jail, Adili Chibuike Ejike walked home a free man and is looking forward to going home.
Mr Adili had been detained since 2013 and had been sentenced to hang after he was convicted for having imported nearly 2 kilos of methamphetamine.
On Monday, however, this conviction was thrown out by the Court of Appeals due to questions over whether or not the accused was aware that the suitcase his childhood friends had asked him to give to someone in Singapore contained drugs. To complicate the matter, Mr Adili had previously asked for financial aid from these same friends.
The drugs were hidden in the inner lining of the suitcase.
Mr Adili burst into tears of relief and put his face in his hands when on behalf of the three-judge panel, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon read out the overturned conviction.
According to their ruling, the judges determined that three things needed to be proven before someone is convicted of drug importation: That the accused was in possession of the drugs, that they knew of the nature of the drugs, and that they had brought the drugs into the country on purpose without prior authorisation.
At Mr Adili’s earlier trial, his lawyer Mohamed Muzammi admitted that while his client knew that the drugs were among his possessions, the lawyer said that Mr Adili was unaware that the drugs were, in fact, methamphetamine, also known as Ice.
However, according to the prosecutor, the accused acted in a manner that was “willfully blind”.
In court, Mr Adili was found to be an unreliable witness, given the differences between his testimony in court and his investigation statements. And, while the accused was also found to be of below-average intelligence, it was ruled by the judge that he did not suffer from cognitive impairment.
Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu, therefore, convicted Mr Adili of the capital trial.
The issue of “willful blindness” figured in the reversal of the decision of the High Court, since Chief Justice Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash decreed that the accused had not been willfully blind to the fact that there were drugs in the suitcase he brought, since it was only when Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers cut open the inner lining of the suitcase that the Ice was discovered, something that Mr Adili would not have seen even if he opened the suitcase himself.
The judges said, “Nor could (Adili) have found out about the drugs by asking the persons who had handed him the suitcase in Nigeria, since it was apparent that they were intent on keeping the truth of the matter from him, and would not have told him about the hidden drug bundles even if he had asked.”
After the court was dismissed, TODAY reports Mr Adili as saying how thankful he was for the justice system in Singapore via an interpreter.
He also said he was eager to go home. Mr Adili said, “All I want is to go back home and recover from the past years of my prison sentence, before I think about that,” referring to his future plans back in Nigeria.
The Nigerian was only 28 when he was arrested at Changi Airport in 2011, when he had come from Lagos, Nigeria, to Singapore.
He had borrowed over S$1,000 from one childhood friend, who then asked him to travel to Lagos, where he met yet another childhood friend, who in turn gave him a suitcase and told him to bring it to Singapore and to give the luggage to a certain person when he arrived in the country.
When he arrived at an airport and his suitcase was x-rayed, officers saw a dark image on one side of the suitcase. The officers then searched the luggage but found nothing, it was was only when they cut it open they found two packets of Ice weighing a total of 1,961 gm. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), anyone who traffics more than 250 gm of methamphetamine will get the death penalty.
In June 2016, he was found guilty of drug importation by a High Court judge. Mr Adili, who had been unemployed and had only obtained a primary education, received the death penalty in April 2017 when the public prosecutor did not issue him a certificate of substantial cooperation for assisting the anti-narcotics authorities in disrupting drug activities, according to a report from TODAY. -/TISG