Akingbola Refuses To Take His Plea As EFCC Re-Arraigns Him

Source: THEWILL. - thewillnigeria.com

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 29, (THEWILL) - The former managing director/chief executive officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola was today re-arraigned before Justice Charles Achibong of the Federal High Court Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Akingbola, whose re-arraignment before Justice Achigbong was sequel to the transfer of the case from Justice Idris Mohammed’s court however failed to take his plea as his counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe opposed it on the grounds that there was an application before the court seeking to quash the charges. He told the court that there was an application for the quashing of the case.

“The accused person/applicant is being charged and arraigned for offences which are unknown to law,” he stated, adding that the charges were incurably defective.

However, counsel to EFCC, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, objected to it saying that he was only served with the preliminary objection this morning. He said he was statutorily entitled to time to respond and therefore asked for time to file written addresses.

Chief Fagbohungbe reminded the court that the accused person was earlier granted bail and that he should be allowed to continue to enjoy his bail condition. Justice Achibong then adjourned to December 14, 2010 for hearing on the motion to quash the charges. The accused person was allowed to return home.

In another matter before the court, Akingbola’s counsel is asking the court to compel the EFCC to leave out his property at No 12 Ruxton Road, Ikoyi. Akingbola’s counsel claims that the property was not part of the schedule of property that was attached by the court.

It would be recalled that Justice Tijani Abubakar had given an order on the interim forfeiture of the property of Akingbola when he was declared wanted by the Commission. The then trial judge, said that the EFCC Act 2004 gave the Commission power to investigate and attach assets suspected to have been acquired through proceeds of financial crime and money laundering. After listening to the submission of both the prosecution and the defence counsel, Justice Achigbong said he was reserving his ruling pending the determination of the matter on the stay of proceedings. In a related development, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the EFCC to release the international passports of the former Managing Director of Afribank, Mr. Sebastine Adigwe and six others who are standing trial for alleged mismanagement of funds and abuse of office. Justice J Tsoho who gave the order while ruling on the application of the accused persons for a variation of their bail conditions, however stated that the accused persons must seek the permission of the court at least seven days before they could embark on any journey.The Judge refused the prayer of the sixth accused person for the defreezing of his account on the ground that he did not state the account number and left the court to speculate. After the ruling, the counsel to both parties agreed to return to the court on 28 January 2011 to argue the motion by the accused persons that the charges against them be quashed.

Adigwe and six other persons which include Osa Osunde, former chairman of Afribank, Isa Zailani, Chinedu Onyia, Henry Arogundade, former executive directors of Afribank, Falcon Securities Limited and Peter Ololo, managing director of Falcon Securities Limited are facing an amended 33- count charge brought against them by the EFCC. Adigwe and his co-travelers are alleged to have recklessly granted credit facilities above their approval limit as provided in the regulations of Afribank Nigeria Plc, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 15(1)(b) of the Failed Bank (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act Cap F2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 16 (1) (a) of the same act. They are also said to have failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the books of accounts of the bank as at 31 May 2009 gave a true and fair view of the state of affairs of Afribank Nigeria Plc as required by Section 24(1) section 24(2) of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act Cap B3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. However, Justice J. T. Tsoho granted bail to the accused persons on April 26, on the same terms and conditions upon which they were granted bail when they were first arraigned by the Commission in September 2009. The bail conditions are: Deposit of bank guarantee in the sum of N1 billion in favour of the Commission to secure the attendance of the accused person. The procurer of the said bank guarantee to provide tax clearance certificate of the last three years. A surety in respect of each suspect/accused person and such surety must be a serving/current minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who will provide a landed property in Victoria Island, Lagos or Ikoyi, Lagos or Maitama, Asokoro in Abuja whose title and value will be verified and found acceptable to the Commission.