Alex Enumah in Abuja
A former House of Representatives member, Nze Chidi Duru, was tuesday arraigned before an Abuja High Court on charges of alleged diversion of N16.1m pension funds to his personal fund.
Duru who is a legal practitioner based in Abuja was said to have committed the offence when he was the Vice Chairman of First Guarantee Pension Ltd.
He is standing trial on a four-count charge bothering on falsification of document and money laundering to the tune of N16.1million proffered against him by the federal government.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges when read before him.
In view of the not guilty plea, the prosecution led by Sylvanus Tahir, urged the court to remand the defendant in prison pending the determination of the matter.
He also asked for a trial date to enable him bring witnesses that will testify against him.
But the court drew the attention of the prosecution to a preliminary objection filed by the defendant challenging the validity of the charge.
Prosecution counsel claimed he had not been served.
Responding, counsel to the defendant, Abdul Mohammed, told the court that the prosecution was duly served by the court’s bailiff on February 2, 2017 and there was a proof of service to that effect.
The judged from his record also confirmed that the defendant was served on that date and was acknowledged by one Adigwe Patricia of Wuse 2, Abuja.
Mohamed however urged the court to use his discretion to grant his client bail. But the prosecution objected
In his ruling, Jutice Peter Affem agreed with the defence counsel that the burden to refuse application should be discharged by the prosecution and which has not been done.
The judge said there was nowhere in the ACJA that makes it mandatory for bail application to be in written form and that the law presumes the defendant innocent of the charge against him until the contrary is proved beyond reasonable doubt.
He therefore granted the defendant bail on self-recognisance and ordered the defendant to deposit his international passport and any other travelling documents with the court.
He adjourned to February 27 for hearing of the preliminary objection.