The trial of six former staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and four other bankers involved in an alleged N8b fraud commenced on Tuesday, June 2 at the Federal High Court, Ibadan. They were ordered to be remanded in prison by Justice Emmanuel Ayo until June 9 when their application for bail would be heard. They are facing 31-count charge ranging from conspiracy, abuse of office, stealing to false declaration and concealing of property, which were brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The CBN officials who have already been sacked by the apex monetary authority are Patience Okoro (Abuja), Afolabi Olufemi (Lagos), Ilori Adekunle (Akure), Kolawole Babalola (Ibadan), Olaniran Adeola (Ibadan) and Fatai Yusuf (Ibadan). The four other accused persons are Tope Akintade, Togun Kayode Philip, Salami Ibrahim and Odia Emmanuel. They all pleaded “not guilty.”
Mr. O. Bolanle, who led the defence counsel, urged the court to accept oral application and grant the bail because the offences allegedly committed are not punishable by death. But the judge interrupted him, wondering if he thought oral application for bail could be granted on such weighty offences.
Bolanle, however, persisted by citing Section 118 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act, which he said had been affirmed by the Court of Appeal in the case between M. K. O. Abiola and the Federal Government of Nigeria as reported on page 115 of 1995 Nigerian Weekly Law Report.
According to him, the offences for which his clients were standing trial were not as weighty as that of Abiola. He also referred to a case between Justice Nikki Tobi and Mr Suleiman, a one-time Commissioner of Police in Plateau State, which was reported in 2008.
But Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), counsel for the EFCC, punctured their arguments, saying the law did not state that all applications for bail can be oral. He also cited the case of Fasehun versus Attorney General of the Federation reported in 2008 in the All Federation Law Report, Part 423, page 1369, Part 1406-1407 where oral application for bail was declined. “An appeal was made and an application for bail was put at the discretion of the judge,” he said.
The prosecution also pointed out that the Criminal Procedure Act cited by the Defence counsel had been repealed since May 18, reclassifying bail to minor and major, based on the nature of offences committed.
Justice Emmanuel, in his short ruling, declined the defence counsel’s request, stressing that the offences were too weighty for consideration of an oral application for bail. He ordered the counsel to file a written application, which will be heard on June 9. He ordered the accused to be remanded in prison till then. Trial was adjourned till July 6 and 7.
The second case involves five of the accused and two others said to be at large. They pleaded “not guilty” to the 11-count charge. The defence counsel relied on their previous arguments while the judge applied the initial ruling and adjourned dates for bail hearing and trial.
Four accused persons are facing a 15-count charge in the third case. The accused are Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Muniru, Toogun Philip and Tope Akintade. One other accused is said to be at large.
They also pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. The initial ruling and adjourned dates were adopted, but the trial dates changed to July 2 and 3.
Earlier in the day, the court premises was filled up with EFCC operatives, litigants and their relations, reporters and observers who wanted to witness the proceeding, in spite of the early morning rain.
By Dike Onwuamaeze