A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered that a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Azibaola Robert, be remanded in Kuje Prison pending the determination of his bail application.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba handed the order on Monday when Mr. Robert and his wife, Stella, were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The anti-graft body had arraigned the duo on a seven-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption.
Mr. Robert and wife are accused of diverting $40 million purportedly meant for the supply of tactical communication kits for Nigeria’s Special Forces.
The funds were alleged to have been transferred from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, with the Central Bank of Nigeria to the domiciliary account of their company, One Plus Holdings.
The offence, according to the EFCC, contravenes Section 8(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
When the charges were read to them, the accused persons pleaded not guilty.
Following their not guilty plea, counsel to EFCC, Aliyu Yusuf, urged the court to fix a date for trial while the accused be remanded in prison custody.
However, counsel to the accused and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chris Uche, told the court that he had a pending application dated May 24, brought pursuant to Section 36 (5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 seeking the bail of his client to enable the defence prepare for trial.
While moving on the application, Mr. Uche argued that bail was at the discretion of the court, adding that the offence is bailable.
He informed the court that the defendant had been in EFCC custody for over two months and the constitution is clear on how long a suspect should be kept before being arraigned.
To this, Mr. Uche contended the right of his client to bail as guaranteed by law had been breached.
The same argument was canvassed by Mrs. Robert’s counsel, Gordy Uche, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. .
Mr. Uche stated that Mrs. Robert had been on administrative bail granted by the EFCC and has not breached any of the terms.
Responding, EFCC counsel Mr. Yusuf opposed both applications.
He urged the court to refuse the applications considering the severity of the offence which according to him, carried a punishment of between 7 to 21 years imprisonment.
On the issue of the detention of the first defendant, the EFCC counsel told the court that at no time did the anti-graft agency detain any accused person without a valid court order.
He argued that the second defendant, who predicated her application for bail on health grounds, did not provide any medical report to back it up.
While the court ruled that Mrs. Robert should continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted by the EFCC, it fixed June 8 for ruling on the bail application of her husband.