A Lagos High Court hearing the suit by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against those standing trial in the oil subsidy fraud on Thursday granted bail to the accused.
Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, who entertained the case, granted bail to five of the accused oil marketers including Mahmud Tukur, son of the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Mamman Nasir Ali, son of former PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali; Abdulahi Alao, son of business mogul, Abdulaziz Arisekola-Alao; Alex Ochonogor and Christian Taylor.
However, the hearing of arguments for and against Alao was not entertained by Justice Habeeb Abiru of same court in another matter involving the son of the business mogul and his firm, Axenergy Limited.
The matter involving Nasaman Oil Services plc, Mamman Nasir Ali and Christian Taylor, who are being prosecuted for N4.4 billion alleged fraud, was called first. The defendants pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge preferred against them.
After listening to arguments from the defence counsel, Joe-Kyari Gadzama, and prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, Justice Onigbanjo admitted each of the defendants to bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.
The judge said one of the sureties must be a blood relation of the defendants, and they must have landed property within the range of N100 million. The said landed property must have title documents that can be verified by the Land Registry in Ikeja or any other part of Lagos.
Justice Onigbanjo also said that one of the sureties must be a level 16 officer of the Lagos State Civil Service or the Federal Civil Service, and that the sureties must provide evidence of tax payment or its equivalent for the last three years.
The trial judge further ruled that the international passports of the defendants be deposited with the EFCC. He also remanded the defendants in the custody of the anti-graft agency pending their compliance with the bail conditions.
But Gadzama informed the court that it would be impossible for Taylor to provide a surety in Lagos who is a blood relation since he is a Sierra Leonean. The judge asked him to file an application for bail variation on behalf of his client. The judge then adjourned the matter till October 30 and November 12 for trial.
The case of N1.8 billion alleged fraud involving Tukur, Ochonogor, Alao and Eterna Oil and Gas plc was afterwards called. All the defendants also pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution counsel, Jacobs, and the defence counsels, Wole Olanipekun (for Tukur, Ochonogor and Eterna Oil and Gas) and Babajide Koku (for Alao), agreed that the bail conditions imposed on the defendants in the first matter be adopted.
The judge in his ruling admitted them to bail on the same conditions imposed on those in the first batch and the case was adjourned till November 13 and 14, 2012.
In the separate three-count charge suit instituted against Alao and Axenergy before Justice Abiru, the judge adjourned till Wednesday, August 1, 2012 for hearing of the bail condition because Jacobs said Alao’s lawyer just served him with the application in court that morning and he needed time to respond to it.
But Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited could not be arraigned because the first defendant, Wagbatsoma, was not present in court. Their matter was adjourned till August 1, 2012.