Alleged N109bn fraud: Court decides Ex-AGF Idris fate Thursday
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), will on Thursday rule on the bail application filed by the former Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris.
Justice Adeyemi Ajayi fixed the date after taking arguments canvasssed for and against the bail application by counsel to both parties.
Ahmed is currently in Kuje Correctional Center on remand following his arraignment on a 14-count charge preferred against him and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
He is standing trial over his alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of public funds, to the tune of about N109.4 billion.
Others standing trial with him are: Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Kudu Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited.
After taking a plea of not guilty to the charges, the defendants are urging the court to release them on bail pending the determination of the case against them.
In his submissions, Chief
Chris Uche, SAN, counsel to the ex-AGF, assured the court that his client would be available to face the charge against him.
He urged the court to take into cognizance, the fact that his client who was on the administrative bail by the EFCC, 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.
Both Peter Abalaka and Mohammed Ndayako, SAN, who appeared for the 2nd and 3rd defendants equally urged the court to admit their clients on bail, pledging their availability for trial.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, in his counter affidavit, urged the court to discountenance the submissions of the defence counsel and reject the bail application.
In urging the court to consider the nature and gravity of the charge, Jacobs submitted that the cogency of the proof of evidence against the Defendants as well as the severity of the punishment upon their conviction.
He 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.
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”.
The commission has 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.
Jacobs explained that 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.