Subsidy scam trial: Arisekola’s son gets N100m bail
It was a case of different strokes for different folks in the ongoing trial of oil marketers indicted in the abuse of Petroleum Support Fund of the Federal Government as the court handed down different bail conditions to the marketers yesterday.
At the resumed sitting of the court on the cases, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court, sitting in Ikeja, remanded one Oluwaseun Ogunbambo in Ikoyi Prison. His brother judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru also handed down N100 million-bail condition to Abdullahi Alao, son of the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao.
Another indicted marketer, Mr. Walter Wagbatsoma was also granted bail in the sum of N150 million and three sureties in like sum by Justice Abiru. The marketers appeared in separate cases bordering on conspiracy, forgery and use of false documents to claim billions of money from the subsidy fund of the Federal Government. Seventeen persons and seven companies had so far been indicted in the fuel subsidy scam.
Ogunbambo remanded in prison custody In the case involving Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, Habila Theck and Fargo Energy Limited, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo ordered Ogunbambo to be remanded in Ikoyi Prison custody. Ogunbambo’s co-defendant, Theck was, however, lucky as the court granted him bail in the sum of N20 million and two sureties in like sum. The two defendants 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.
Efforts to secure their bail had suffered a setback on Monday as prosecution counsel craved more time to respond to the application. At the resumed sitting of the court on the matter yesterday, counsel to the two defendants, Babajide Koku (SAN) urged the court to grant bail to Ogunbambo on liberal terms, assuring that he would not jump bail or interfere with the trial.
But 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 had another with which, he had been travelling.
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 clear case from the past rulings by 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’s counsel told the court that he had 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, who he said had lived up to his undertaking with the EFCC. In his ruling, Onigbanjo said ordinarily he would not have objected to bail for Ogunbambo (1st defendant) because it was a constitutional right while the offence was a bailable one. He, however, said the issue of multiple identity of the defendant had cast huge question on his personality ‘and therefore the bail application failed and was hereby refused.’
The court set six bail conditions for Theck, the second defendant, stating that one of the sureties must be employed in the federal civil service on grade 14 and verified by Head of Service. The second surety must be an employee of Lagos State Government and must possess property valued at N100 million and must submit original title of the property with court after verification by the land registry. Other bail conditions include; three years tax clearance, to deposit international passport with EFCC and agency to confirm receipt in writing and to report every Monday of the month to the agency. Further hearing in the matter was adjourned to September 21 and 28.
Christian Taylor’s bail condition waived Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo yesterday waived the bail condition set for Mr. Christian Taylor, a Sierra-Leonean, arraigned alongside Mamman Nasir, a son of Alhaji Ahmadu Ali, erstwhile national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). An aide of President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Mariam Ali, yesterday stood surety for Taylor in place of his blood relation.
Mariam, who is the wife of Alhaji Ahmadu Ali and mother of Nasir, was said to be the special adviser to President Jonathan on Inter-Governmental Relations. Ali and Taylor, alongside their company, Nasaman Oil Services, were facing three-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining with false pretence over N4billion from the subsidy fund. At its ruling on July 26, the court had granted bail to Taylor and Ali in the sum of N20 million and two sureties in like sum, one of whom must be a blood relation with landed property worth N200 million within the jurisdiction of the court.
But Taylor had applied for a variation in the bail conditions handed down by the court for his bail. At the resumed sitting of the court on the matter yesterday, counsel to Taylor, Mr. Kolade Obafemi urged the court to accept ‘a reputable and responsible Nigerian in place of a blood relation’ as surety, adding that Dr. Mariam Ali, mother of the second defendant was 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 had not made any deposition 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 by claiming in his statement that he was a native of Edo State from Okpe Local Government Area and later claimed to be 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 access to his lawyers. He then varied the bail condition of a blood relation and substituted it with a reputable and responsible Nigerian with landed property.
Arisekola’s son gets bail Justice Habeeb Abiru, however, granted bail to Abdulahi Alao, son of Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum. Alao and his company, Axenenergy Limited were standing trial on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy and fraud with regard to the subsidy scam. The defendant had last week been granted bail alongside four others in another case before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the same High Court.
The court said the two sureties must be residents and owners of landed property in Lagos and must also possess meaningful and identifiable means of income. Justice Abiru stated that Alao must not travel abroad without the permission of the court and must deposit his travelling documents with the EFCC. Alao’s counsel, Babajide Koku (SAN) had argued that his client should be granted bail since an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Koku said Alao had never interfered with the case and would not. “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, however, argued 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.
Others get bail too Justice Abiru also granted bail to five newly arraigned defendants indicted in the oil subsidy scam. The newly arraigned marketers included Walter Wagbatosma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas. Specifically, the first, second and fifth defendants had nine counts preferred against them while Ebenezer and Ejidele, third and fourth defendants, respectively, were slammed with four charges each.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges and following arguments from both counsel to defence and prosecution, the judge imposed varied bail conditions on each of them. Wagbatosma was 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 were granted bail in the sum of N10 million with two sureties in like sum. The court stated that the sureties for all the defendants must be residents and owners of landed property in Lagos and must possess meaningful and identifiable means of income.
The defendants must not travel abroad without the permission of the court and must deposit their travelling documents with EFCC. Formal trial of the indicted marketers was adjourned to October 24.