By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, granted bail to the former Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Adedibu Ojerinde, to the tune of N200million.
The court had on Tuesday, remanded Ojerinde in prison custody after the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, arraigned him on an 18-count criminal charge bordering on alleged N900million fraud.
The ICPC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/97/2021, alleged that the defendant committed multiple frauds between 2003 and 2021, while he held sway at JAMB.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Thursday, the former JAMB boss who pleaded not guilty to the charge, persuaded the court to release him on bail pending the determination of the charge against him.
Placing reliance on Section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and Section 35(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Ojerinde’s lawyer, Peter Olorunnishola, SAN, argued that the charge against his client contained bailable offences.
He equally drew the attention of the court to the fact that his client was previously granted administrative bail by the ICPC. The Prosecution counsel, Mr. Ebenezer Shogunle, however, opposed the bail application.
Shogunle told the court that the Defendant posed a flight risk, alleging that he breached the administrative bail conditions that was granted to him by the ICPC.
More so, the Prosecution alleged that contrary to one of the administrative bail conditions, the defendant, frustrated the investigation process when he refused to make his family members available for interrogation.
The ICPC lawyer told the court that at the time when some persons were invited for questioning, Ojerinde quickly agreed to a plea bargain in a bid to stall the investigation. Alleging that the defendant was likely to intimidate some of the witnesses billed to testify in the matter, ICPC, prayed the court to deny him bail.
However, in his ruling, trial Justice Obiora Egwuatu said he was minded to accede to the bail request.
The trial Judge held that the ICPC failed to adduce any evidence to back its claim that the defendant either violated his administrative bail conditions or interfered with the investigation process.
Consequently, he granted the defendant bail in the sum of N200m with two sureties in the like sum.
According to the court, “The sureties must be resident in Abuja, provide an acceptable means of identification and evidence of tax payment for three years.
“One of the sureties shall be a professor in a federal university, provide documented evidence of professorship, letter of appointment, and staff identity card.
“Second surety shall be a property owner in the federal capital territory (FCT) of Abuja. The building must be covered with a certificate of occupancy which will be deposited with the registrar of this court.
“The residences of the sureties shall be verified, pictures of the residences showing the street name and number shall be exhibited”, it held.
The court further ordered the defendant to surrender his international passport and not travel out of the country without permission.
The matter was subsequently adjourned till July 22 for trial.
ICPC had in count one of the charge, alleged that the defendant had while serving as the Registrar of NECO, used his position to gratify himself by “corruptly converting the sum of N27m, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria to personal use, to acquire a property known as Tejumola House, Ikeja, Lagos in the name of Doyin Ogbohi Industries Ltd, a company in which you have a private interest.”
In counts two and three, Ojerinde was accused of diverting N3, 811,876,230.10, around February 16, 2009, into a Zenith Bank accounts number: 1002833087 and 1011265699 “in the name of JAMB-J. O. Olabisi.”
He was, in counts four and five, alleged to have used his position as JAMB Registrar to confer a corrupt advantage on one Jimoh Olabisi Olatunde, whose accounts in Zenith Bank and Stanbic IBTC Plc with number: 1013583506 and 0022594599, in the name of JAMB-J. O. Olatunde, and allegedly diverted the sum of N205,712,575.23 between 2019 and 2018.
In count six, Ojerinde was said to have, between January and February 2014, conferred corrupt advantage on his associate by allegedly authorising the payment of N486m to Messrs Pristine Global Integrated Company, through a Zenith Bank account number: 1013701117 for the supply of “examination materials – calculators, pencil and eraser,” which sum was above his authorised approval threshold.
He was, in count eight, accused of diverting N15m with which he allegedly acquired a broadcast license for Ifelodun Communications Ltd (Gravity FM, Igboho), a company in which he is said to have a private interest.
In counts nine, 10, 11, and 12, Ojerinde was alleged to have diverted public funds to acquire landed property from a property firm, EFAB Estate, Abuja, though a proxy – P.I. Oye and Associates, “in order to conceal your beneficial interest in the said property.”
In counts 17 and 18, Ojerinde was accused of making false statements in respect of his relationship with his former lawyer, Peters Oyewole, one Adeniyi Banji, and a firm, Standout Industries Ltd.
The defendant was arraigned after his earlier moves for a plea bargain with the ICPC crumbled.