Six days after he was remanded in prison custody, an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, on Thursday, granted bail to the former Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris, to the tune of filing this report.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Adeyemi Ajayi, adopted all the terms and conditions of the administrative bail the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, earlier gave the ex-AGF and his two co-Defendants.
“In line with the due process and supremacy of the law, the Defendants are still entitled to bail, irrespective of the enormity of the allegations against them.
“The EFCC did not in any of its processes, stated that the Defendants misbehaved while on administrative bail”, Justice Ajayi noted.
Consequently, as part of conditions for release of the Defendants on bail, the court, held that they must remain within the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Abuja, adding that they must seek consent before travelling out.
The court further ordered the Defendants to depose to an affidavit of assurance to abide by all their bail conditions.
It directed the Defendants to surrender their international passports and also give assurance that they would not procure alternate passports during the pendency of the case.
Justice Ajayi held that the Defendants should remain in Kuje prison until they are able to perfect their bail conditions.
Other Defendants in the matter, are: Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Kudu Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited.
The court had on July 22, remanded them in prison custody after they were arraigned for allegedly diverting public funds to the tune of about N109.4 billion.
The 14-count charge against them borders on conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and money laundering.
The Defendants, who earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge against them, had through their respective lawyers, begged the court to release them on bail.
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 after 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.
“Moreover, 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 prayed the court to discountenance separate counter-affidavits the EFCC filed to oppose their release on bail.
They predicated their bail applications on Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as on Sections 159 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
However, the EFCC, in a counter affidavit it filed on July 26, 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, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, argued that contrary to position of the Defendants, he said the allegation of criminal breach of trust against them would attract 14 years imprisonment.
The anti-graft agency 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.
The ex-AGF was arrested on May 16 by the EFCC over allegation that he diverted and laundered over N80bn from the public coffers.
The EFCC, said its investigations revealed that the ex-AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies, non-existent contracts and other illegal activities, using proxies, family members and close associates.
It alleged that the funds were also laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.
Idris was arrested in Kano, following his alleged refusal to made himself available for questioning.
Meantime, some of the charges against him, read: “That you, Ahmed Idris between February and December, 2021 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, being a public servant by virtue of your position as the Accountant General of the Federation accepted from Olusegun Akindele, a gratification in the aggregate sum of N15.1 billion which sum was converted to the United States Dollars by the said Olusegun Akindele and which sum did not form part of your lawful remuneration but as a motive for accelerating the payment of 13% derivation to the nine oil-producing sates in the Federation, through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 155 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 and punishable under the same section”.
“That you, Ahmed Idris while being the Accountant General of the Federation and Godfrey Olusegun Akindele while being the Technical Assistant to the Accountant General of the Federation between February and November, 2021, at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in such capacity, entrusted with certain property, to wit: N84.390 billion committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property, when you dishonestly received the said sum from the Federal Government of Nigeria through Godfrey Olusegun Akindele trading under the name and style of Olusegun Akindele & Co., and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990”.