… AS PERM SEC, DIRECTOR, OTHERS GET BAIL
An Abuja High Court yesterday released on bail the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Kigo, his Director, Chief Esai Dangabar and four other top Federal Government workers accused of diverting N32.8 billion police pension fund.
Justice Abubakar Talba granted them bail in the sum of N10 million and two sureties each in the like sum but they were however returned to prison following their inability to perfect their bail conditions.
The court specifically ordered that one of the two sureties must be a civil servant of not below level 14 and that the sureties must be resident in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Besides, the sureties must swear to affidavit of means, which must be verified by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before they could go home.
The judge, while ruling in a persuasive bail motion argued by Chief Solomon Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), agreed that the court had discretion to admit the accused persons on bail.
Talba said after weighing the balance of convenience, he came to the conclusion that the accused persons were presumed innocent until proved by the prosecution.
He said it was a settled law that the accused persons were entitled to breath air of freedom so that they could go and prepare themselves adequately.
The judge disagreed with the claim of EFCC that investigation into the case had not been concluded, adding that by bringing the accused to court and proof of evidence placed before the court, it was presumed that investigation had been done and that fear of possible interference in anything could not arise.
One of the accused persons, Mrs.Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula was taken to Suleja Prison while the rest went to Kuje prison, pending the time they would meet up with their bail conditions.
The other top government functionaries are Alhaji Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakubu Yusufu and Alhaji Habila Zira.
They were arraigned on a16-count criminal charge of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and diversion of public fund amounting to N32.8 billion.
The alleged offences were contrary to Sections 97, 315 Penal Code Act Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja Nigeria, 2007.
The breakdown of the charges showed that the accused persons between January 2009 and June 2011 in Abuja, the accused persons being public officers in the service of the government of the federation diverted a sum of N14, 518, 567, 724, being part of police pension from an account domiciled at First Bank Plc.
Between January and December 2009 in Abuja, the accused persons were also alleged to have breached the public trust with N8, 920, 371, 822 police pension fund kept at First Bank Plc.
The charge sheet also indicated that between January 2010 and February 2011 also in Abuja, they diverted another sum of N4, 739, 894,896 police fund while between February and June 2011, a N858, 301, 006 was also diverted from the same source.
They were also accused of stealing N656, 559, 289 in January 2011 while in March 2009 another N462, 963, 012 was allegedly diverted from the same source while working at the police pension office, among others.
However, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges filed on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs.
The substantive case was adjourned till April 28 for hearing