By Tobi Soniyi
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of an Abuja High Court Friday admitted the chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy probe and the secretary, Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo, respectively, to bail in the sum of N10 million each with two sureties each in like sum.
The court had last Friday remanded the accused persons in Kuje prison after they pleaded not guilty to the seven-count criminal charge filed against them by the federal government under the ICPC Act.
The accused persons are expected to leave their travel documents with the registrar of the court pending the conclusion of their trial.
In granting the bail plea, the trial judge noted that the offence for which the suspects were charged was not "ordinarily bailable" going by Section 341(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
According to the code, any offence that has three years and above as punishment is ordinarily not bailable. Justice Oniyangi, however, chose to admit them to bail because the prosecution did not file any counter affidavit to controvert the facts deposed to by the accused.
Justice Oniyangi held that "before the court will arrive at a judicial and judicious decision on the issue of bail, the affidavit evidence of the parties must be considered."
The judge said the accused persons had deposed to an affidavit, which the prosecution did not oppose, and that the court must take those facts deposed to - but not controverted - as true.
"Paragraph 15 of the accused applicant affidavits stated that he would not in any way interfere with the trial and that he would not commit any offence, will comply with the bail conditions imposed on him and be always available to stand trial.
"Under Section 341(3) of CPC, the averment had fulfilled the provisions for the granting of a bail. In the absence of any counter affidavit, the court is left with no option than to accept the affidavit of the accused persons as true and act on them.
"Consequently I have come to a conclusion that this is a proper circumstance, the court can act judicially and judiciously particularly when prosecution has not controverted the facts deposed to by the accused persons. I hereby overrule the objection of the prosecution and allow the application for bail," ruled Justice Oniyangi.
The matter was consequently adjourned till April 10 and 17 for trial.
In the wake of the oil subsidy crisis, the House of Representatives set up an ad-hoc committee headed by Lawan to probe the oil subsidy regime.
The committee had indicted some firms and individuals of short-changing the subsidy regime to the tune of N1.7 trillion and it consequently recommended their prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
However, Femi Otedola, the CEO of Zenon oil alleged that the Farouk-led committee demanded $3 million bribe from him out of which he allegedly paid $620,000 as gratification in order to strike out the name of his company, Zenon Oil, from the list of indicted firm.