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Court Admits Daniel to Bail on Stringent Conditions

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The former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Danial who facing is a 16 count charge of stealing and diversion of public funds preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC  before an Ogun State High Court, Abeokuta

 has been admitted to bail. Ruling on the bail application on Friday, October 14, 2011 Justice Olanrenwaju Mabekoje said there was no sufficient material before the court to warrant the denial of bail to the accused person. He observed that the accused voluntarily presented himself to the Commission for arrest and said there was no cause to believe that he will not make himself available for trial. Justice Mabekoje also dismissed the argument that the accused could interfere with the investigation and use his killer squad to intimidate witnesses. He said there was no evidence before court that such killer squad exists.

He therefore admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N500million and two sureties in like sum. The sureties must have landed property within the jurisdiction of the court and submit the title to the property and two passport photographs  to the court registrar.

Before the ruling, the court heard the bail arguments of counsel. Taiwo Osopitan, SAN lead counsel for the defendant had urged the court to admit his client to bail as the offence he allegedly committed was not a capital offence and as such was bailable. He reminded the court that the law prescribes bail for an accused person based on the principle of presumption of innocence. He referred the court to sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution which states that an accused person is presumed innocent until he has been proven guilty by a court of Law. Referring to paragraph 6 of the supporting 25 point affidavit which he claimed contains condition for bail for the defendant as stipulated by the anti-graft agency, Osopitan said if the EFCC was not adverse to bail the court might as well exercise its discretion in favour of the accused person. He also prayed the court to be liberal with the accused bail terms as he is not likely to jump

He prayed the court to grant the accused bail on self recognizance.

"My Lord, application for bail can either be in self cognizance or as provided by the Law. Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution as amended made provisions for this and also section 118 of the CPA and section 6(6B) of the same CPA provided that he is entitled to bail', Osopitan stated.

Responding to the bail application, counsel to EFCC Rotimi Jacobs urged the court to refuse the bail application as the offence involved was a very serious one. He faulted the tone of the oral argument by the defence counsel which he said was intended to force the court to admit the defendant to bail. He pointed out that bail is granted at the discretion of court. "My Lordship, the oral address made by my colleague is such that tries to force the court to grand bail. No authority is binding on anyone to force the court to grant bail. It is absolutely at the discretion of your Lordship.If bail was granted by the EFCC it does not mean that that the Court's discretion cannot take it away from the accused," Jacobs stated. The EFCC counsel explained that the bail granted by the EFCC is an administrative bail which is to avoid breaching the right of the accused to being charged to court within a stipulated period. He added that Section 118 of the CPA  puts grant of bail at the discretion of court and urged his Lordship to exercise that discretion responsibly.  

He noted that it would be risky to grant bail on liberal terms as the court will not be protecting its reputation by doing so. 'I have not seen when a lower Court gives bail and an upper Court revokes it. If at all you will grant it, please give stringent conditions. Section 120 of the CPA did not say you cannot do it in your Lordship discretion. The case involves an alleged corrupt act so it should be taken seriously. Refuse the bail application My Lord."

After listening to the arguments of counsel, the presiding judge asked whether counsel were ready for trial, and both agreed on a November 17 date for commencement of trial. The judge consequently stood down the case at about 12noon to write his ruling.

Justice Mabekoje has fixed November 17 and 18, for the commencement of trial.

Daniel was arraigned on Wednesday,October 12. The former governor allegedly siphoned  billions of Naira from the treasury of Ogun State during his eight years as governor.