By Deborah Onyofufeke
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting, Maitama, on Wednesday has fixed tomorrow, Thursday for the ruling on the determination of the bail application for the release of the former Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris
Idris and two others are facing trial on a 14-count charge instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against him and three others.
Other Defendants in the charge bordering on conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, are: Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Kudu Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited.
Idris, last Friday was ordered by the judge to be remanded in prison over his alleged involvement in the illegal diversion of public funds, to the tune of about N109.4 billion.
At the resumed proceedings today, the Defendants, who had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, through their counsels pleaded with the court to release them on bail pending the determination of the case against them.
Chris Uche, SAN, who appeared for the ex-AGF, assured the court that his client would be available to face the charge against him.
Uche, SAN, drew attention of the court to the fact that the EFCC earlier granted administrative bail to his client, who he said flew into Abuja from Kano state immediately he was notified about his arraignment.
“My lord, the charge against the Defendants contained bail able offences.
“They are charged under section 115 of the Penal Code, and the offence against the Defendants upon conviction, attracts a maximum sentence of seven years with option of fine or without fine.
“They are also charged under section 12 of the ICPC Act which also attracts seven years imprisonment.
“So my lord, these are not capital offences that bail cannot be granted.
“More over, the Prosecution, which investigated and saw the seriousness of the case, still deemed it fit to release the Defendants on bail. The charge did not grow weight overnight.
“As we have stated in our affidavit, the 1st Defendant has very responsible sureties that will take him on bail, and he commits himself irrevocably to submit himself for trial.
“He made himself available by quickly returning to Abuja from Kano immediately he was invited for this trial.
“He also appeared before the EFCC regularly, in line with the administrative bail that was earlier granted to him, which he never breached.
“We are therefore urging my lord to grant the Defendant bail on very liberal terms”, Uche, SAN, submitted.
Likewise, counsel for the 2nd and 3rd Defendants, Peter Abalaka and Mohammed Ndayako, SAN, respectively, prayed the court to admit their clients on bail, pledging their availability for trial.
The Defendants urged the court to discountenance separate counter-affidavits the EFCC filed to oppose their release on bail.
However, while moving the counter affidavit he filed on July 26, the Prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, urged the court to consider the nature and gravity of the charge, the cogency of the proof of evidence against the Defendants as well as the severity of the punishment upon their conviction.
EFCC’s lawyer argued that contrary to position of the Defendants, he said the charge of criminal breach of trust against the Defendants would attract 14 years imprisonment.
Stressing that the law should be a tool for social engineering, Jacobs, SAN, said: “My lord, this is a very serious case. How can anyone look at this magnitude of case and say it is just seven years?
“EFCC would not have released this men on administrative bail like that, but it was regulated by an order from the Magistrate Court”.
He argued that the temptation for the Defendants to jump bail has become stronger in view of “the weighty nature of the case against them”.
“We have placed materials before this court and will therefore leave the issue of whether to grant bail or not, at the discretion of your lordship.
“What we want is urgent determination of this case and we are willing to produce our witnesses immediately.
“We further apply for an order for accelerated hearing of this case”, Jacobs, SAN, added.