Ibrahim Shuaibu in Katsina
The Katsina State High Court presided over by Justice Maikaita Bako tuesday granted bail to a former Governor of the state, Ibrahim Shema and three others who were facing trial over a 22-count charge of financial misappropriation amounting to N11 billion, while in office.
Shema, a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Sani Hamisu Makama, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Lawal Rufa’I Safana and former Chairman of the state chapter of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) were alleged to have embezzled over N11 billion of state fund while in office.
They were however, granted N1billion bail each, totalling N4 billion, and a surety each.
When the charges were read to the accused persons, they pleaded not guilty to all the 22-count charge, bordering on alleged diversion of public fund for personal use and forgery of government documents with the intention of stealing public funds.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Samuel Jubril Okutepa (SAN), submitted that the accused persons be remanded in prison custody, owing to the huge amount of money allegedly embezzled by them.
But the counsel to the defendants, Joseph Dauda (SAN), made an oral-application for bail, the EFCC counsel argued against the bail application, insisting that even though the judge would grant them bail, it should be on formal application attached with affidavit.
According to him, count one to eight under which they were charged, carry a punishment of seven years imprisonment, just as count nine to 22 of the charges carry a punishment of 14 years imprisonment.
Okutepa further cited section 341 (2) of CPC, laws of Katsina State, saying that the offences allegedly committed by the defendants, “are not ordinarily bailable. They can only be considered upon formal application, not by oral application.”
Also arguing against the submission of Dauda that the first defendant (Shema) who was one-time Attorney-General of the state and two-time governor of the state should be granted bail on self-recognition, Okutepa maintained that in law, there is no sentiment.
“The status quo has changed. They are now accused persons and the law is not a respecter of persons. If the court grants them bail, the proposition will be a dangerous precedent if allowed, because any rich man that committed an offense will walk freely on the street, while the poor will continue to languish in prison.
“Sentiment should not be considered in the court, what should be considered is verifiable materials in affidavit evidence. This is a competent charge by a competent court and the charges are with consequences because the amount involved is very huge.
“The criminal justice system should not be starved. The accused persons should tell us that they will not run away if granted bail; and they should do that through affidavit.”
In his ruling, Justice Maikaita Bako, granted the accused persons bail on stringent condition of N1 billion with for sureties and adjourned the case to 28 March for further hearing.
However, the accused persons within a space of one hour met the bail conditions as they walked out of the court premises freely.
In a short remarks to journalists, Shema described the judgment as the will of God, saying, “I thank God for the judgment.”