The Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday, granted Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director, (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Yakubu, who is charged with six counts bordering on money laundering, filed an application seeking leave of the court to travel to the UK for a routine medical check up.
The former GMD premised his application on the grounds that he had the medical condition before the commencement of trial.
He also told the court that he was previously granted permission to travel for the treatment which he had stopped to commence trial.
Yakubu added that in all the previous times he was granted permission, he returned on time and duly returned his passport to the court’s registry.
He further told the court that he had already booked an appointment with his doctor and that the estimated time he would be away would be three weeks.
He prayed the court to grant the application to enable him attend to his health so that he would be fit enough to stand trial.
The prosecuting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had opposed the application, alleging that the incessant trips abroad for medical treatment amounted to medical tourism.
The anti-graft agency further submitted that medical tourism trips undertaken by Yakubu were an abuse of the bail system.
The agency held that as the prosecuting agency, it had closed its case and the defendant should have waited for the court’s ruling on his no-case submission before seeking permission to travel.
The prosecution had also argued that Yakubu’s submission that if not allowed to travel for medical treatment, he would not be able to face his trial was a subtle attempt to blackmail the court.
In his ruling, the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, noted that the prosecution had not opposed the previous applications to travel and cannot now describe same as an abuse of the bail system.
On the allegation that the defendant was blackmailing the court, the judge held that the defendant had consistently maintained that he needed medical treatment.
He said it would have been a different case if there was nothing before the court to show that the defendant needed medical attention.
The judge added that the prosecution did not deny that the defendant had previously travelled for medical treatment and kept faith with his trial by not absconding but returning as and when due.
Justice Mohammed held that he was satisfied with the reason given by the defendant to travel and accordingly granted the application.
He ruled that Yakubu’s passport be released to him on the personal guarantee of the sureties who signed his bail bond.
Yakubu is facing a six-count charge involving failure to declare assets and money laundering.
When EFCC closed its case after calling seven witness, Yakubu, rather than open his defence, filed a no-case submission claiming he had no case to answer.
The court fixed May 16 to rule on the no-case submission. (NAN)