N1.5bn fraud charge: EFCC fails to stop bail of Dasuki’s aides

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday failed to stop the Federal High court from granting bail to Col. Nicholas Azinze, an aide of the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Mohammad Sambo Dasuki and security consultant who were accused of corruption by the Federal Government.
The EFCC lawyer Mr. Ofem Uket had made frantic moves to stop Justice Gabriel Kolawole from admitting the defendants on bail on the ground that they would escape justice by refusing to appear for trial in the charges preferred against them.
The main defendants are Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a former aide in the Office of National Security Adviser; an Austrian and Security Consultant, Mr. Wolfgang Reinl; a retired military intelligent officer, Sagir Mohammed and a legal practitioner, Mr. Edidiong Idiong.
The EFCC, had arraigned the quartet of Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a Former Special Assistant to the former National Security Adviser, an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl; Edidiong Idiong and Sagir D. Mohammed before Justice  Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 13-count charge of corruption and money laundering to the tune of N1.5 billion.
The defendants however denied the charges preferred against them.
Ashinze and other defendants were arraigned alongside five companies accused of allegedly diverting huge sums from the office of the former NSA.
The companies are: Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organization, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Services Limited.
Uket told the court that although the defendants were granted administrative bail,  the bail however, terminated at the point the anti-graft agency filed charges against them and urged the court not to grant the bail application.
But, Ashinze’s counsel, Ernest Nwoye, while arguing the bail application of his client, prayed the court to grant the defendants bail on self recognizance having earlier been admitted to bail by an FCT High Court.
Afam Osigwe, representing the second and fifth defendants, also prayed the court to admit his clients to bail.
He said the his travel document of his client are in the possession of the Commission and that the defendant had lived in Nigeria for over 23 years and is married to a Nigerian.
In his argument, counsel to the third defendant, Paul Erokoro, (SAN), said his client, Idiong, being a legal practitioner knows what it means to jump bail.
He stated that, aside the fact that he had earlier been granted bail by an FCT High Court, he had always made himself available to the EFCC.
In a similar vein, counsel representing the fourth defendant, Nureni Jimoh, while praying the court to grant his client bail presented six exhibits to the effect that the accused had a health challenge which he had been managing for close to 40 years.
However in his ruling, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said the claim by the EFCC lawyer that the defendants will escape justice was speculative because there was no evidence to that effect.
The Judge said it is established beyond reasonable doubt that the EFCC granted the defendants administrative bail and that there was no evidence that any of them jumped bail or tampered with witnesses or evidence.
In the circumstances, Justice Kolawole adopted the EFCC administrative bail and admitted all the defendants bail with the conditions.
The judge added that the case would be granted accelerated hearing and urged the prosecution to pick five days in the new year for trial.
Consequently, the case was adjourned to January 23, February 1 and14; and March 7 and 21, 2017.