By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
An Abuja High Court sitting at Gwagwalada, yesterday, adjourned till Thursday to determine whether the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, who is currently in detention, should be released on bail pending his trial.
The former AGF is facing trial over alleged role he played in the “fraudulent” transfer of ownership of an oil bloc, OPL 245, regarded as one of the biggest in Africa.
He was answering to a 42-count corruption charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and six other defendants.
Others on trial over the alleged oil block fraud are Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie and four companies, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.
Trial judge, Justice Abubakar Kutigi had after all the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge last Friday, remanded them in custody of the EFCC, even as he adjourned hearing on their respective applications for bail.
At the resumed proceeding, yesterday, all the defendants, through their various lawyers, pleaded with the court to release them on bail, pledging to be available for their trial.
Though Adoke’s team of lawyers was led by a former AGF, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, his bail application was argued by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN.
Ozehkome prayed the court to grant Adoke bail on Self-recognizance or in most liberal terms.
Likewise, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Abubakar, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, also prayed the court to release his client on bail.
He urged the court to discountenance a counter-affidavit the EFCC filed to oppose the bail request, insisting that his client never breached terms of administrative bail he was previously granted by the anti-graft agency.
EFCC had in its counter-affidavit, alleged that the 2nd defendant failed to appear before it on four occasions in violation of terms of the administrative that was granted to him.
However, Olanipekun argued that his client voluntarily presented himself before the court for arraignment.
He argued that his client is entitled to bail under section 158 of the ACJA since the prosecution has already concluded its investigation.
Likewise, the 3rd defendant, Gbinigie,also argued that he is constitutionally entitled to bail.
Meantime, EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr Bala Sanga, urged the court to deny the defendants bail.
“Our contention is that though ordinarily, the offences are bailable, but materials placed before the court has not established why the court should exercise favourable discretion to the defendants.”
He argued that there was no evidence to prove that Adoke is suffering from ill health.
The prosecution further told the court that there are ongoing criminal investigations involving all the defendants with respect to Halliburton, Malabu Oil and P&ID fraud cases.
After he had listened to all the parties, Justice Kutigi adjourned his ruling till Thursday.