Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, granted a N50 million bail to Olajide Omokore and others arraigned before the court on a nine-count charge slammed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Omokore, an associate of former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Maduekwe, is standing trial along with others over allegation of money laundering.
All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them and their counsel prayed the court to grant them bail on self recognisance or on liberal terms.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, did not oppose the applications, but however, told the judge to give them conditions that would make them appear in court for trial.
In her ruling on the bail application of the defendants, namely, Olajide Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Ltd, Victor Briggs, Abiye Membere and David Mbanefo, Justice Nyako said each of the defendant must produce a surety, who must either be a senior civil servant or must have a landed property.
She said the sureties must depose to an affidavit of means and that all the defendants must deposit their international passport and other travelling documents with the court
Earlier, counsel for Omokore, the first defendant in the matter, Rafiu Lawal Rabana told the court that the charge was not ripe for hearing on the ground that, Kolawole Aluko Akanni, who is now at large, was not before the court among the defendants.
Rabana, whose submission was adopted by all the defence counsels, told the court that the administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) stated that all defendants must be present in court in a criminal trial, and that in the instant case, Akanni must be present in court before the arraignment could go on.
The defence counsel argued that as far as Aluko’s name was listed as one of the defendants, he ought to be served with the charge, arguing that there was no way a trial could proceed without serving Aluko, “because we don’t want our clients to be tried twice”
But Jacobs, the prosecuting counsel countered that a party not available can be arraigned in absentia. “Any time we get him, the charges could be amended and charges filed against him.
“Aluko is in Europe, we could not even take his statement, yet they want us to serve him along with others so that they could create a lacuna. The plea of those present in court should be taken”, he argued.
Having taken the hint of the court, Jacobs asked the court to strike out Kolawole Akanni Aluko’s name from the charge sheet to enable the defendants present in court to take their plea.
Upon the request, Justice Nyako, accordingly struck out Aluko’s name from the charge sheet and the nine-count charge was read out to the defendants. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Justice Nyako asked counsel in the matter to adhere with the practice directions of the court and adjourned till September 19 to commence trial in the matter.