Court grants Alao-Arisekola's son, others bail *No bail for Fargo Energy boss over criminal records
WorldStage Newsonline-- A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Wednesday granted Abdulahi Alao, son of Ibadan-based business mogul, Alhaji Abdulazeez Alao-Arisekola bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum after spending twelve days in the custody of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Alao and his company, Axenenergy Limited are standing trial before the court presided over by Justice Habeeb Abiru over an eight-counts charge of conspiracy obtaining money under false pretence and fraud over his alleged complicity in the fuel subsidy fraud.
Another court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo had last week granted him bail alongside four others in another case.
According to the condition attached to this new bail the two sureties must be residents and owners of landed property in Lagos who must also possess meaningful and identifiable means of income.
Justice Abiru further held that Alao must not travel abroad without the permission of the court and must deposit his travelling documents with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The court also stated that the sureties must show evidence of tax payment while the title deed of the property should be verify by the chief Registrar of the court
The judge gave the ruling after listening to arguments by counsels to both Alao and the EFCC.
The defence counsel, Babajide Koku, SAN, had argued that his client should be granted bail since an accused person is presumed innocent until mproven guilty.
Koku had said Alao had never interfered with the case and would not do same. "We depose that he will not jump bail. He is a family man. He will be available whenever required. He has a name to protect. Our prayer is that your lordship grant the first defendant bail on liberal terms."
But counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs had argued among other grounds that the amount involved in the alleged fraudulent transaction was high and the judge should refuse the bail application.
After his ruling, Justice Abiru adjourned the matter till October 22.
In a related development, Justice Abiru granted bail to other defendants indicted in the alleged oil subsidy scam. Walter Wagbatosma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited (the fifth defendant) had nine counts preferred against them while Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer and Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele (fourth and fifth defendants) were slammed with four charges each.
The five defendants who were arraigned were arraigned yesterday pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy obtaining money under false pretence and fraud slammed on them by the EFCC.
Justice Abiru imposed varied bail conditions on each of them. Wagbatosma was granted granted bail in the sum of N150 Million with three sureties in like sum. Ugo-Ngadi was granted bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum while each of Ebenezer and Ejidele was granted bail in the sum of N10 million with tow sureties in like sum.
Justice Abiru adjourned their matter till October 24.
However, it was a sad day for another accused person, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo as Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo refused to grant him bail.
The court ordered that Ogunbambo, who was on trial alongside Habila Theck and Fargo Energy Limited, be remanded in Ikoyi Prison pending his trial.
He and others were arraigned on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy, obtaining by false pretence, forgery and use of false document to obtain the sum of N976, 653, 110. 98k from the Petroleum Support Fund of the Federal Government.
Attempt by their lawyer, Babajide Koku (SAN) to secure their bail had suffered a setback on Monday as prosecution counsel craved more time to respond to the application.
However, today, Koku urged the court to grant bail to the defendant on liberal term assuring that he would not jump bail or interfere with the trial.
Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs opposed the bail application on three grounds, one of which was an allegation by Stanbic IBTC Bank that Ogunbambo collected loans to the tune of N230 million and N430 million respectively with forged documents and had since jumped bail.
The second ground, he said, had to do with the defendant’s arrest at Dublin Airport with cash, which he refused to declare to the authorities.
He said the Ireland Embassy had already petitioned the EFCC over the matter and Ogunbambo’s two passports had been seized by the anti-graft agency but that he still has another with which he has been travelling with.
The third ground he listed as the multiple identities of Ogunbambo. According to the prosecution lawyer, £Ogunbambo changes name as he likes.”
“This is a different case from the past rulings of the court. The facts are unique. We have shown that the evidence against the accused are quite heavy and the charge a serious one.
“He used different names. His name is just a wearing apparent, which he changes as he likes. If he is in the UK, he is Benson Adekunbo Oladapo Sobowale but in this case he claimed to be Oluwaseun Ogunbambo.”
Although, Ogunbambo counsel told the court that he has never had a criminal case against him, the prosecution told the court that the defendant had all along been jumping bail in all the allegations against him, making it difficult to arraign him.
“He jumped bail. We can’t find him and a defendant can’t be tried in absentia,” Jacobs told the court.
The prosecution, however, raised no objection to the bail application of the second defendant, Habila Theck, who he said he had lived up to his undertaking with the EFCC.
In his ruling Justice Onigbanjo said that ordinarily he would not have objected to bail for the 1st defendant because it is a constitutional right and the offence a bailable offence.
But he held that the issue of dual identity cast huge question on the defendant and therefore the bail application failed and is hereby refused.
He however granted bail to the second defendant, Habila Thech in the sum of N20 million with two sureties each in the like sum.
One of the sureties according to the court must be employed in the federal civil service on grade 14 and verified by Head of Service.
The second surety must be employed Lagos state and possess property valued N100million and must submit original title of the property with court after verification by Land Registry.
Other bail conditions include three years tax clearance, to deposit international travelling passport with EFCC and agency to confirm receipt in writing and to report every Monday of the month to the agency.
In another development an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Mariam Ali, agreed to stand surety for one of accused persons, Christian Taylor, who claimed to be a Sierra-Leonean.
Mariam, who is the wife of Alhaji Ahmadu Ali, erstwhile national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was said to be the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Inter-governmental Relations.
It will be recalled that Justice Onigbanjo had on July 26, granted bail to Taylor, Ali’s son, Mamman Nasir, in the sum of N20 million and two sureties in like sum, one of whom must be a blood relation with landed property within the jurisdiction of the court.
However, Taylor had applied for a variation of the bail conditions arguing that he would find it difficult to produce a blood relation since he has no relation in Nigeria.
At Wednesday sitting of the court, his lawyer Kolade Obafemi urged the court to accept ‘a reputable and responsible Nigerian in place of a blood relation’ as surety, stating that Dr. Mariam Ali, mother of the second defendant is ready to stand surety for him and also used her landed property situated at Surulere, Lagos as part of the bail bond.
When the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, queried the existence of Mrs. Ali as she has not made any disposition before the court, Obafemi said: “Mrs. Ali is a reputable public servant and Special Adviser to the President on Inter-governmental Relations.”
Although the prosecution opposed the variation of the bail condition on the ground that Taylor was trying to misrepresent fact as he had claimed in his statement that he was a native of Edo State from Okpe local government area and later claimed to a Sierra-Leonean when asked to bring a surety, his counsel assured that he would not jump bail.
In his ruling on the application, Justice Onigbanjo stated that the essence of bail was to allow the defendant unfettered access to his lawyers. He then varied the bail condition and substituted it with a reputable and responsible Nigerian with landed property in Lagos.