By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Maitama, on Wednesday, deferred its ruling on application seeking the release of former Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris, on bail, till Thursday.

Idris, who was remanded in prison custody last Friday, is facing trial over his alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of public funds, to the tune of about N109.4 billion.

He is answering to a 14-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and three others.

Other Defendants in the charge bordering on conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, are: Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Kudu Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited.

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At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Wednesday, the Defendants, who had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge against them, through their respective lawyers, begged the court to release them on bail pending the determination of the case against them.

Chris Uche, SAN, who appeared for the ex-AGF, assured the court that his client would be available to face the charge against him.

Uche, SAN, drew attention of the court to the fact that the EFCC earlier granted administrative bail to his client, who he said flew into Abuja from Kano state immediately he was notified about his arraignment.

“My lord, the charge against the Defendants contained bailable offences.

“They are charged under section 115 of the Penal Code, and the offence against the Defendants upon conviction, attracts a maximum sentence of seven years with option of fine or without fine.

“They are also charged under section 12 of the ICPC Act which also attracts seven years imprisonment.

“So my lord, these are not capital offences that bail cannot be granted.

“More over, the Prosecution, which investigated and saw the seriousness of the case, still deemed it fit to release the Defendants on bail. The charge did not grow weight overnight.

“As we have stated in our affidavit, the 1st Defendant has very responsible sureties that will take him on bail, and he commits himself irrevocably to submit himself for trial.

“He made himself available by quickly returning to Abuja from Kano immediately he was invited for this trial.

“He also appeared before the EFCC regularly, in line with the administrative bail that was earlier granted to him, which he never breached.

“We are therefore urging my lord to grant the Defendant bail on very liberal terms”, Uche, SAN, submitted.

Likewise, counsel for the 2nd and 3rd Defendants, Peter Abalaka and Mohammed Ndayako, SAN, respectively, prayed the court to admit their clients on bail, pledging their availability for trial.

The Defendants urged the court to discountenance separate counter-affidavits the EFCC filed to oppose their release on bail.

However, while moving the counter affidavit he filed on July 26, the Prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, urged the court to consider the nature and gravity of the charge, the cogency of the proof of evidence against the Defendants as well as the severity of the punishment upon their conviction.

EFCC’s lawyer argued that contrary to position of the Defendants, he said the charge of criminal breach of trust against the Defendants would attract 14 years imprisonment.

Stressing that the law should be a tool for social engineering, Jacobs, SAN, said: “My lord, this is a very serious case. How can anyone look at this magnitude of case and say it is just seven years?

“EFCC would not have released this men on administrative bail like that, but it was regulated by an order from the Magistrate Court”.

He argued that the temptation for the Defendants to jump bail has become stronger in view of “the weighty nature of the case against them”.

“We have placed materials before this court and will therefore leave the issue of whether to grant bail or not, at the discretion of your lordship.

“What we want is urgent determination of this case and we are willing to produce our witnesses immediately.

“We further apply for an order for accelerated hearing of this case”, Jacobs, SAN, added.

After she had listened to all the parties, Justice Adeyemi Ajayi adjourned till Wednesday to deliver her ruling.

The EFCC had earlier disclosed that a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Ahmed, whose name was originally included in count-11 of the charge, would appear as one of its witnesses in the matter.

The Commission said it was based on Ahmed’s decision to appear before the court to blow the lid on some of the alleged financial malfeasance the ex-AGF was involved in, that his name was delisted from the charge.

Besides, the agency, said it was in possession of confessional statements that were made by both the former AGF and his co-Defendants.

It said the extra-judicial statements were made in the presence of lawyers representing the Defendants, adding that some of the witnesses, among whom are contractors, admitted that huge sums of money were paid to them by the embattled former AGF, for contracts they never executed.

It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Idris as AGF on June 25, 2015.

He was subsequently re-appointed for a second four-year term in June 2019 amid criticisms from labour groups, who argued that he ought to have been retired after clocking 60 years.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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