Court Denies Ex-Air Chief Post-conviction Bail

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Davidson Iriekpen

The Federal High Court in Abuja has refused an application by Air Vice Marshal Tony Omenyi for bail pending the determination of his appeal on his conviction for N136 million fraud.

Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo dismissed the application for lacking in merit.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja sentenced Omenyi to seven years of imprisonment without option of fine after finding him guilty of money laundering on February 28.

Omenyi who was Managing Director of Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Limited, a subsidiary of Nigerian Air Force (NAF), was said to have received N136 million from a NAF contractor.

Justice Dimgba convicted Omenyi and his company, Huzee Nigeria Limited, through which he allegedly received the money.

Omenyi appealed, and subsequently prayed Justice Taiwo to grant him post-conviction bail on health grounds.

The convict said he was diabetic “with issue of poorly managed hypertensive case with DM Retinopathy”.

He added that he ran the risk of going blind and suffering kidney failure if not granted bail.

Besides, he said he might serve out substantial part of the term of his sentence before the appeal is heard as it takes time in most cases to have record of appeal compiled and secure a date for hearing.

He said he had no record of previous conviction in Nigeria or anywhere else and did not jump bail while on trial.

But, the prosecution opposed the application, contending that the convict did not place sufficient materials before the court to enable it exercise its discretion of granting bail pending appeal.

In his verdict, Justice Taiwo noted that the burden was on the applicant to establish that he was entitled to be admitted to bail.

He said the presumption of innocence, as well as that of liberty, was no longer available to the air chief following his conviction.

The judge said: “I note the Notice of Appeal, but it appears, from the averment in paragraph 4(vi) of the affidavit in support of the application, that the record of appeal is yet to be compiled or transmitted out of this court.”

Justice Taiwo held that to grant bail on medical grounds, the Supreme Court decision in the case of Abacha v State (2002) (5 NWLR pt 761 pg 638) must be followed.

The apex court held that bail on special medical need must be based “on satisfactory and convincing evidence”.

The Supreme Court held: “An obvious ground upon which bail would be granted for ill health is when the continued stay of the detainee poses a possibility of a real health hazard to others, and there are no quarantine facilities of the authorities for that type of illness.

“A person being tried or who has been convicted for a serious offence will normally be kept or maintained in custody while he receives available medical treatment.”

Relying on the decision, Justice Taiwo held that Omenyi’s application was unmeritorious.

He held: “I do not see how I can exercise my discretion in favour of the applicant on medical grounds.

“I, therefore, come to the conclusion that there are no enough materials placed before me on which my discretion can reasonably be exercised in favour of the applicant.

“The application lacks merit and same is accordingly dismissed. This is my ruling.”