Alex Enumah in Abuja
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Mr. Azibaola Roberts and his wife, Stella, were yesterday granted bail to the tune of N500million each by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
The duo are facing corruption and money laundering charges levelled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged payment of $40million into their company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
They pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge read before them. But in a brief ruling, the trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, remanded Roberts who is the 1st defendant in the suit in Kuje Prison till yesterday, pending the determination of their bail applications.
At the resumption of the case wednesday, Justice Dimgba delivering his ruling on the bail applications filed by the defendants’ lawyers, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) and Gordy Uche (SAN), held that there was no material evidence before the court that the Roberts and his Wife would jump bail or frustrate their trial.
Dimgba further held that the “Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, provides that the bail conditions shall not be excessive.
“All things considered, I grant the defendants bail on the following terms: the defendants are admitted to bail in the sum of N500 million each, two sureties in like sum which shall in turn enter a bail bond of the sum of N500 million, the sureties must each be an owner of property in Asokoro or Maitama District of Abuja,” the judge held.
The judge however added that the defendants are to remain in prison custody till their bail conditions are met.
The matter was adjourned till June 28, July 4 and 5 for hearing.
Roberts spent 80 days in the custody of the EFCC, before he was formally arraigned before a court of law. In canvassing for Roberts bail application, his lawyer, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), had urged the court to admit his client to bail on liberal terms.
Uche argued 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,” he said.
He stated that they had already filed a motion on notice dated May 24, 2016, and filed on May 27.
The bail application which was brought pursuant to Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution and Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), prayed the court to admit Roberts 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. Briefing journalists at the end of the session, counsel to the defendants commended the court for granting bail to their clients and expressed confidence that the defendants would meet the bail conditions.