Even without ruling on an oral motion for bail, Justice E. S Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Maitama Abuja today released the trio of Imaobong Akon Esu-Nte, an accountant with the Nigeria Prisons Service; Olukolade Olabamiji, a businessman and Mohammed Abdulkadir to their counsel, Titus Olasupo Ashaolu, SAN despite protest from the prosecution counsel, Aso Larry Peters.
Before they were arraigned today, some of the accused persons had engaged the prosecution in a hide and seek game, deliberately making themselves unavailable for service. Surprisingly, when the matter was called, the accused persons were present.
Conscious of the fact that failure to serve the accused with the charge before trial could be a booby trap that might be exploited as possible grounds of appeal in the event of conviction, EFCC counsel, Peters, drew the court’s attention to the efforts of the Commission to ensure that the accused persons were duly served. Surprisingly, the trial judge told the prosecution counsel that the accused persons claimed they have been served. Peters however insisted that the court put this on record.
The accused persons alongside their companies: Royal Mall Nigeria Limited, Transferase Ventures and I.D Integrated Petroleum were docked on an 11-count charge of conspiracy, forgery, abuse of office and money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Akon Esu-Nte and her accomplices, allegedly laundered funds from the Nigeria Prisons Service into the accounts of companies where she has interests, including Abasiaga Global Resources Limited.
Several of the transactions were carried out in connivance with her account officer, Mohammed Abdulkadir who procured drivers licence, AMAC receipt, passport photograph of unknown people which was used on the mandate cards of the different accounts.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them.
One of the count reads:
“That you Akon Esu-Nte (alias Imabong Akon Esu Nte) being the Head Capital Account at Nigeria Prisons Service Headquarters, Abuja between January and March 2014, in Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly transferred the sum of N100,000,000.00 (One hundred million naira only) from Nigeria Prisons Service accounts into Royal Mall Nigeria Limited’s United Bank for Africa account number: 1017758108; which sum represent proceeds of unlawful act and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (As amended by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act,2012) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act”.
In view of their pleas, counsel to EFCC. Aso Larry Peters asked the court to fix a date to commence trial.
However, defence counsel, Titus Olasupo Ashaolu, SAN, who had earlier filed a motion for bail of the accused withdrew it. Instead, he tabled an oral motion, praying the court to admit the accused to bail. He argued that, an accused who is brought to court and yet to be tried and convicted is entitled to bail.
Responding, Peters told the court that, the defence had earlier served him a formal application for bail which they now withdrew midway. By this action, he noted that, “it seems the prosecution has been ambushed and will be asking for short adjournment to reply in the interest of fair trial and fair hearing”.
Justice Chukwu has adjourned hearing on the bail application to Thursday, April 16, 2015 while ordering the defence counsel to take custody of the accused.
Head, Media & Publicity
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