N3.6b fraud: Court admits Saraki's aide, others, to N250m bail each, trial commences Dec. 4.

Justice Babs Kuewumi of a Federal High Court sitting at Ikoyi Lagos, Nigeria on Tuesday granted bail in the sum of N250 million to each of the three accused, Gbenga Makanjuola, an aide to Senate President Bukola Saraki and two others, standing trial with him over N3.5 billion fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred an 11-count fraud charge against Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to Senate President Bukola Saraki, Melrose General Services Ltd., Obiorah Amobi and Kolawole Shittu, a cashier in the office of the Senate Predident.
Also charged is one Robert Chidozie who is said to be "at large".

They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges after their arraignment last week and their application for bail was argued.

Defence counsel, Mr Paul Erekoro (SAN), had argued the bail application on behalf of Makanjola.

He had urged the court to admit the accused to bail on liberal terms, adding that he will be available to stand trial.

Other defence counsel also aligned themselves with the application for bail.

After the arguement,the court had adjourned the case for ruling.

Delivering his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Kuewumi held that as a matter of law, the court possessed discretion in granting bail, which must be exercised judicially and judiciously.

Reading out the10 factors militating against granting of bail, the court held that the ability of the accused to stand trial is paramount, adding that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The court furthet held that bail is not meant to serve as a punishment but to enable the accused appear and stand trial.

While ruling he said,"On the whole, I have not been shown any proof that the accused will not stand trial to warrant refusing bail.

"The accused are hereby granted bail in the sum of N250 million each, with two sureties each in like sum,"

The court ordered that the sureties must be owners of landed properties within the Lagos Metropolis.

In addition,the sureties must deposit four recent passport photographs with the Court's Registrar, and also submit a letter of Identification.

The matter was consequently, adjourned until December 4 for trial.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offence in December 2016.

They were said to have conspired to disguise the unlawful origin of the sum of N3.5 billion paid into the Access bank account of Melrose General Services Ltd.

According to the prosecution, the accused took control of the sum which was transferred from the Nigeria's Governors Forum's account, operated by Melrose.

The prosecution averred that the accused ought to have known that the sum represented proceeds of unlawful activities.

The offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15, 15 (2), 15(3), 18, and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act 2011.

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