By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory at Apo, on Friday, remanded a former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Grace Taiga, in prison custody over the alleged role she played in the controversial $9.6billion judgment debt.
Trial Justice Olukayode Adeniyi ordered that the defendant should be taken to Suleja Prison in Niger State after she pleaded not guilty to an eight-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against her.
EFCC had among other things, alleged that the erstwhile Director received bribe through her offshore bank account for signing the alleged fraudulent Gas Supply Processing Agreement between the Process and Industrial Developments Limited, P&ID, and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
She was said to have signed the documents alongside the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, the late Rilwan Lukman.
Taiga was said to have signed as Nigeria’s witness to the agreement, while the then minister presiding over the ministry, the late Dr Rilwan Lukman, signed as Nigeria’s representative.
The prosecution told the court that the defendant violated various laws by entering into the gas supply agreement without prior approval by the Federal Executive Council and a certificate of no objection to the contract from the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE.
Meanwhile, shortly after she pleaded not guilty to the charge, the defendant, through her lawyer, Mr Ola Olanipekun, SAN, prayed the court to allow her to remain in custody of the EFCC, saying she was suffering from hypertension and diabetes.
However, EFCC’s lawyer, Bala Sanga, opposed the request, arguing that the proper place to remand a defendant after arraignment was the prison.
Justice Adeniyi agreed with the prosecution and ordered that the defendant should be remanded in Suleja prison.
The court, however, stressed that she should be accorded proper medical attention while in custody, pending the determination of her bail application.
The case was adjourned till September 25 for the hearing of her motion for bail.