N5.2bn Contract Scam: Court Remands Ugbane, Elumelu, 8 Others
Abuja Feb 18, (THEWILL) - Trouble is certainly not yet over for three members of the National Assembly; Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Hon. Mohammed Jibo, and seven others indicted in the N5.2 billion Rural Electrification Agency, REA, contract scam as they were ordered remanded in custody by a Federal High Court in Abuja when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC re-arraigned them on a 153-count charge on Thursday, February 18.
The seven other persons who are being prosecuted in the 153-count fresh charges are Engr. Samuel Ibi Gekpe, Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu, Simon Kirdi Nanle, Engr. Lawrence Kayode Orekoya, Abdulsamad Garba Jahun and Kayode Oyedeji.
When the matter came up in court Thursday, counsel to EFCC, Godwin Obla told the court that the business of the day was for the accused persons to take their pleas which the judge concurred with. The trial judge, Justice Garba Umar then ordered that the charges be read to the accused. However, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all charges. Obla then asked the court to fix a date for hearing saying he was ready to prosecute the case as there was substantial evidence against the accused persons.
However, Benard Afu, counsel to the 1st accused person (Engr. Samuel Gekpe) told the court that he has filed a motion for bail which is supported by a seven paragraph affidavit and that he intended to on rely it. He urged the court to adopt the written addresses as his client is the serving managing director of REA and has never been involved in a criminal case in the past. He also told the court that the accused is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC in FCT High Court, Gudu, and that the present charge arose from the same transaction. He also told the court that the accused persons had earlier been granted bail by the EFCC and the Gudu High Court, and that they have always made themselves available for trial since the case commenced. He pleaded with the judge to grant bail to the accused persons as they have already deposited their international passport with the court and have sureties with landed properties in Abuja.
The same argument was canvassed by counsel to the other accused persons who pleaded with the judge to take cognizance of the fact that the accused persons were already on bail and have always made themselves available for trial since the case began.
However, counsel to EFCC, Godwin Obla said he has presented the facts of the case before the judge to take a decision that will serve the cause of justice. “It is true this case is a sister case to that in FCT High Court in Gudu, but the interest of justice is best served if his Lordship exercises his discretion,”Obla said. He however said the case at the Federal High Court is different from that in FCT High Court as the fresh case was purely a matter in the Procurement Act, which is only within the jurisdiction of the federal high court.
After listening to the submissions of the prosecuting counsel and all the defence counsel, Justice Umar adjourned the case till Friday February 19 when he is expected to rule on the bail application filed by the accused. He said he needed time to study the submissions of all the counsel and that justice must be seen to be done so that the court is not brought into disrepute.
Senator Ugbane and his co-accused are facing charges for allegedly defrauding the federal government to the tune of N5. 2 billion in the Rural Electrification Agency, REA, contracts.
The accused persons as public servants were said to have breached public trust and conspired among themselves to defraud the country and thereby committed a criminal offence. In the case before Justice Adebunkunola Banjoko of the FCT High Court, Gudu, which is an offence in Penal Code, the accused persons were granted bail with N50 million and two sureties.
The sureties were asked to produce bank guarantees of the said sum, produce affidavit of tax guarantee, must be residents of Abuja and also produce title deeds to their landed property. They were also to deposit their international passport to the court for the duration of their trial.