By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
ABUJA— The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, arraigned the Chairman, Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, OSOPADEC, Adebowale Henry Ajimuda and four others before Justice Gloria Okeke of the Federal High Court, sitting in Akure, on a 13-count charge bordering on fraud, embezzlement of public funds and conspiracy to commit fraud to the tune of over N540 million.
The four others are Mann Omobayi Alli, Ikuomola Vincent Aghone, Mafolabomi Monday and Olayinka Olaitan Joseph.
According to the EFCC, the alleged embezzlement of the funds was executed in four installments. The first installment, involving N150 million was drawn with a FirstBank of Nigeria Plc cheque number HC8050863652; the second installment of N75 million was pulled out with a FirstBank cheque number HC8050867481; the third tranche of N75 million was drawn with a FirstBank cheque number HC8050866673, while the fourth installment involved N240 million.
The alleged scam was deodorised through four forged vouchers of OSOPADEC, which were raised by the accused persons to cover the phony expenditure. The accused persons claimed that N300 million of the fund was committed into the training of 3,000 ex-militants.
Prosecution counsel, Aso Larry Peters, had sought leave of the court for the 13-count charge to be read to the accused persons and their plea taken, which was granted. The five accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Lead defence counsel, Banjo Ayeniji told the court that he had filed a formal bail application for the accused persons and observed that the offences which the accused were alleged to have committed were bailable and urged the court to grant them bail on liberal terms.
However, prosecution counsel, Peters, opposed the bail application and urged the court to take judicial notice of evidence before it, and the fact that if granted bail, the accused persons might intimidate the prosecution witnesses.
Peters also told the court that the EFCC intended to file fresh charges against the accused person before an Ogun State High Court, adding that releasing them on bail could jeopardize investigations.
In her ruling, Justice Okeke granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N1million each and one surety each in like sum. Each surety must not be less than a Director in the Federal Civil Service.
Before adjourning hearing to September 26th, 2012, Justice Okeke ordered the accused persons to report to the Ondo State Commissioner of Police on the first Wednesday of every month.
Two of the 13 count charge read: ”That you Adebowale Henry Ajimudia, Mann Omobayi Alli, Ikuomola Vincent Aghone, Mafolabomi Monday and Olayinka Olaitan Joseph, sometime in march 2011 in Akure within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired amongst yourselves to defraud Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission the aggregate sum of N300 million and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 3(6) of the miscellaneous offences act cap M17 laws of the federation of Nigeria.
“That you Adebowale Henry Ajimuda, Mann Omobayi Alli, Ikuomola Vincent Aghone and Mofolabumi Monday on or about the 1st march 2011 in Akure within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, knowingly and by false presentation with intent to defraud the Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission cause payments to yourselves of the sum of N240 million through a First Bank of Nigeria Plc cheque drawn by OSOPADEC purportedly for the benefit of National Directorate of Employment for training of restive youths and thereby committed an offense punishable under section 1(2) (b) of the miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”