Wednesday, January 6, 2016

EFCC docks ex-PDP boss, Bello's son


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, docked former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Haliru Bello, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Bello, a one-time Minister of Defence, was arraigned alongside his son, Abba, on a four-count criminal charge bordering on alleged N300 million fraud.

Whereas Bello’s son was charged as the first accused person, a firm, BAM Projects and Properties Limited, which the EFCC said was used to perpetuate the fraud, was cited as the 2nd accused person in the matter.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the accused persons, through the firm, withdrew N300 million from an account the  Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The fund was said to have been transferred to the accused persons by the embattled former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), 11 days to the 2015 presidential election.Meanwhile, the ex-PDP boss, who was brought to court yesterday  in an ambulance, took his plea in a wheelchair.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge dated December 23 but amended on December 30,  2015, even as their lawyers, yesterday, prayed the court to okay their release on bail
Both father and son predicated their separate bail applications on sections 162 and 165(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, as well as sections 35 and 36(5) (6) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
They told the court, yesterday, that they were ready to answer to the charges against them.
Bail applications
Specifically, the former PDP boss, through his lawyer, Mr. Abdulaziz Ibrahim, urged the court to grant him bail on self recognition.
Bello told the court that he was still recuperating from a spinal cord surgery he had in the United Kingdom, stressing that he was previously granted administrative bail by the EFCC.
Besides, Bello tendered five exhibits in support of his bail motion, among which included three photographs he took while undergoing surgery.
He also tendered medical report issued to him by the hospital in the UK, as well as a letter his lawyer wrote to the EFCC, which indicated  his willingness to surrender himself for investigation.
According to Bello’s lawyer, “the important factor which your lordship is enjoined to consider in granting or refusing bail is the availability of the accused person to stand his trial.
“Here is the 3rd defendant who just had a critical spinal cord surgery in the UK. Immediately after the surgery, he was summoned by the EFCC. With the wound from the surgery still fresh, my client had to be  rushed to another hospital in Nigeria.
“He was brought to this court this morning straight from his hospital bed in an ambulance. Is this the kind of person that can take a flight if granted bail? The answer is no.
“Health condition is a serious factor to be considered. The 3rd defendant is over 70 years old, an elder statesman who has served this country meritoriously in various capacities.
“My lord, he is not only a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but also former chairman of one of the biggest political parties in Africa.
bello5“We pray this court to grant him bail on self recognition or in the alternative, grant him bail in the most liberal terms. He has responsible persons that are ready to stand surety  for him.”
Similarly, his son, Abba, through his lawyer, Mr. O. Osoka, also prayed the court to grant him bail on health ground.
He tendered an order made by another court headed by Justice Okeke, which he said okayed his release on bail. More so, the accused persons contended that the charge against them are ordinarily bailable.
While Bello’s bail request was dated December 31, his son filed his motion December 30, 2015.
EFCC opposes bail applications
Meantime, the EFCC, via two separate counter-affidavits that were deposed to by one of its detectives, Mr. Mohammed Goji, yesterday,  opposed the release of the accused persons on bail.
EFCC lawyer, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, argued that the accused persons did not place sufficient evidence to warrant the court to exercise its discretion in their favour.
The prosecution urged the court to consider the severity of the charge which it said attracts a maximum of 14 years imprisonment, as well as the proof of evidence against the accused persons, and deny them bail.
It argued that neither Bello nor his son adduced any evidence to show that they would not get proper medical attention from the prison hospital.
EFCC maintained that the accused persons, if released, have the capacity to interfere with the cause of justice.
He said: “We submit that this court has discretion to either grant or refuse bail. That discretion must be exercised judicially and judiciously.
“Looking at the evidence before this court, the defendant/applicants have not placed sufficient materials to warrant the exercise of discretion in their favour. The accused persons are facing a very serious offence.
“On the whole, we urge, my lord, to refuse the bail application and invoke section 19(2b) of the EFCC Act, 2004, and order accelerated hearing of this case.”
After listening to all the parties yesterday, Justice Mohammed,  reserved ruling on the matter till tomorrow.
While remanding the son in prison custody,  Justice Mohammed held that since it was not in doubt that Bello was brought to court from his hospital bed, “the 3rd accused is hereby put under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police pending the determination of his bail application.”
Justice Mohammed ordered the chief registrar of the court to immediately draw the attention of the IGP to the court order.
Shortly after the ruling yesterday, the former Chairman was conveyed back to the hospital in an ambulance belonging to Abuja clinics.

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