Alex Enumah in Abuja
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Roberts Azibaola and his wife, Stella, were yesterday formally arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Roberts who had spent 80 days in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), together with his wife, are being prosecuted over the alleged payment of $40million into their company’s account, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
They pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge read to them.
However, in a brief ruling, the trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, remanded Roberts who is the 1st defendant in the suit in Kuje Prison till today pending the determination of their bail applications.
But his wife was allowed to go home, as the court granted her administrative bail earlier given by the EFCC.
Counsel to the 1st defendant, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), urged the court to admit his client to bail on liberal terms, adding that offences which Roberts was charged with were bailable.
“Plea having been fully taken by the defendants, we will like to prepare for trial, and I want to apply for bail for the 1st defendant to enable us defend him.
“We have filed a motion on notice dated May 24, 2016, and filed on May 27,” Uche stated.
In the bail application which was brought pursuant to Section 36 (5) of the constitution 1999 and Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), the defence counsel prayed the court to admit his client to bail in view of the “pains” Roberts had suffered in the custody of the EFCC despite a valid court order admitting him to bail.
In moving the motion, Uche submitted: “The issue of pre-trial bail is at the discretion of the court.
“The alleged offences are not capital offences and are therefore bailable.”
“Roberts had been in the EFCC custody for this alleged offences for over two months for no reason.
“We went to court and an Abuja High Court granted him bail in the some of N10million, but the order was flagrantly disobeyed by the respondent (EFCC).
“When these orders were disobeyed, we wrote the respondent, but they refused to obey the orders.
“Roberts was whisked away to Lagos by EFCC operatives, and then he collapsed in Lagos.
“The facts as they are is that his rights as a citizen have been breached.
Right to bail for a man who is presumed innocent until proven is a constitutional right. The offences are not capital offences,” Uche averred.
However, prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Yusuf, urged the court to refuse the bail application on the grounds that the offences for which the defendants are being tried are “serious.”