By Emeka Mamah
Umuahia—The Federal aHigh Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia State, yesterday, remanded a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Chief Benjamin Apugo in prison custody over alleged N36 million fraud.
Apugo was remanded in prison by the court presided over by Justice Osiagor, following a three count charge bordering on obtaining money under false pretences, preferred on him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Specifically, he was alleged to have illegally sold six plots of land belonging to the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, at Umunwulari Nkata Ibeku layout, Planning Scheme Umuahia for N36 million.
The accused person pleaded not guilty to the charges prompting the prosecution team led by Joshua Saidu to apply for a trial date while praying that the defendant be remanded in prison custody pending trial.
However, Apugo’s counsel, R.M. Udechukwu, SAN, who had earlier argued against the docking of his client because they had filed a case challenging the jurisdiction of the court at the appellate court was rejected by the court. He asked the court to allow Apugo continue on the administrative leave granted him by the EFCC.
After an exhaustive argument between the prosecution and defence counsel, each relying on several affidavits and counter-affidavits, the court eventually granted the defendant bail to the tune of N10 million and two sureties in like sum.
The two Sureties, the court stated must be senior civil servants of not less than deputy director with one of them having a landed property within Umuahia metropolis which title documents must be deposited with the court registrar.
The judge further directed that both counsel together with the court registrar shall also verify the sureties and ordered Chief Apugo to be remanded in prison custody pending fulfilment of bail conditions.
Earlier, Apugo had arrived the court with several security vehicles and six armed anti-riot policemen from the Special Protection Unit of the Nigeria Police, a development which prompted the judge to order them to move out of the court premises citing security concerns.
Apugo’s arraignment was sequel to his arrest on Friday, September 30, 2016 by EFCC following a warrant issued by the court which considered his numerous attempts to evade taking a plea on the charge preferred against him.
The matter has been adjourned to 17th and 18th November for trial.