A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, and three others were Tuesday arraigned by the federal government at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on corruption related offences.
The SGF who was suspended from work last year by President Muhammadu Buhari following clamour to that effect, however, pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him and was subsequently ordered to be remanded.
Justice Jude Okeke will however Wednesday decide the bail applications of the ex SGF and three others.
The others whose applications will be considered alongside that of Lawal are Hamidu David Lawal, a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday.
The four were Tuesday arraigned before Justice Okeke, sitting at Maitama, Abuja, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on behalf of the Federal Government, on a 10-count charge bordering on fraud.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to them in the open court.
In view of their not-guilty plea, the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar asked for a date for commencement of trial.
Counsel for the former SGF, Chief Akin Olujinmi SAN, informed the count that he filed a bail application on behalf of the first defendant, adding that the prosecution refused to be served the application.
He, however, moved an oral application for bail, saying that he was encouraged by the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Abiola vs FRN.
While noting that bail is at the discretion of the court in line with Sections 158 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, he urged the court to grant Lawal bail in self-recognition.
According to him, the first defendant had served Nigeria meritorious at a high level as SGF, an office he held for over two years before the Senate raised the issue that brought him before the court.
The senior advocate added that EFCC invited Lawal and detained him on April 11, 2018 and granted him administrative bail on April 13, 2018.
He informed that while on administrative bail, the former SGF had cause to travel on health ground and informed EFCC about it, adding that, “EFCC released his international passport for to travel. He returned the passport to them on his return to the country.
“If he had wanted to escape, he could have done so while he travelled out of the country.”
Olujinmi submitted that Lawal did not have any reason to interfere with EFCC’s investigation as the commission had completed its investigation into the matter.
Counsel for the second defendant, Sunday Ameh SAN, urged the court to exercise its discretion in granting Hamidu Lawal bail, saying that he was admitted on an administrative bail by EFCC since November, 2018.
According to Ameh, his client, who he said was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984, neither jumped bail nor violated any of the conditions attached.
The senior lawyer declared that the second defendant had demonstrated his availability to face trial all through the period of his administrative bail.
On their parts, counsel for Abubakar and Monday, Napoleon Edenala and Ocholi Okutekpa respectively, urged the court to grant the third and fourth defendants bail pending the final determination of the case.
They argued that their respective clients had been granted administrative bail by the anti-corruption commission and had never jumped bail.
Responding, the prosecution counsel, Abubakar, stated that he was not aware that any EFCC officials refused to accept Service of the first defendant’s bail application.
He stated further that there was no affidavit before the court, showing that the application was refused to be accepted, adding that he needed time to respond to the oral application by Olujinmi.
According to him, the Abiola vs FRN relied upon by the senior advocate to make the oral application was not applicable in the current case.
Abubakar submitted that in line with Section 162 of ACJA an applicant for bail needed to present before the court sufficient materials to enable the court to exercise its discretion.
The prosecution counsel added that such materials must be supported by evidence.
He submitted that the fact that EFCC granted the defendants administrative bail was not enough for the court to grant the, bail as the circumstance had now changed as they were now charged to court.
After listening to arguments for and against the bail applications, Justice Okeke stated that the court was inclined to giving considered ruling on the applications and as such adjourned till today to deliver ruling.
The judge, however, ordered that the defendants be remanded in EFCC custody pending the ruling on their bail applications.