By Alex Enumah
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, admitted a businessman, Paul Ozigbu, to bail in the sum of N20 million.
Abang admitted the defendant to bail with a surety in like sum, who must be resident in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and also owns a landed property in the FCT, while ruling in his bail application.
The court had on November 25, ordered the remand of Ozigbu at the Kuje Correctional Center following his arraignment on alleged forgery, criminal conspiracy and illegal conversion of properties of late Hillary Ozigbu and other family members.
The police after concluding its investigations of the alleged fraud, filed a12-count charge against Ozigbu.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/239/2020, he was specifically accused of forging Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) documents and conversion of family properties into personal use, amongst others.
Ozigbu was alleged with others at large, at different times, to have obtained various sums of money totally N10.40 billion with fraudulent documents.
After he pleaded not guilty to all the charges, the prosecution counsel, J. Nwadike, prayed the court to fix a date for commencement of trial and to also remand the defendant in prison custody.
But the counsel to the defendant, Hope Ejiofor, informed the court of a bail application for the defendant dated November 23, 2020.
However, in a short ruling, the trial judge, declined to take the application on the grounds that it was filed before the arraignment of the defendant.
The judge said the court has jurisdiction only to entertain bail application that is filed after the arraignment of a defendant.
He therefore ordered that the defendant be remanded at the Correctional Center until February 3, 2021, when the trial will commence or pending when a new bail application is filed.
Following the leading of the court, Ozigbu’s lawyer brought a fresh application for his bail dated November 27, arguing that the alleged offences the defendant was accused of are bailable.
In his ruling, the court stated that bail is at the discretion of the court and further agreed that the alleged offences are bailable.
He subsequently granted bail to the defendant in the sum of N20 million and a surety in like sum.
Other conditions attached to the bail include an order for the defendant to submit his international passport with the registrar of the court or a letter from the Immigration office in the event that he does not have an international passport.
The surety, on his part, must show evidence of tax payment in the last three years and also present to the court evidence of means of livelihood to guarantee the bail bond in the event that the defendant jump bail.
In addition, the registrar of the court must verify the authenticity of the document of the landed property submitted by the surety.
The defendant was accused in the 12-count charge of conniving with others at large to forge a CAC document and forging the signature of late Ozigbu and used same to effect the change of directors of the company, known as Ozigbu Engineering Company Limited.
He was also alleged to have illegally converted the property and assets of late Ozigbu within Nigeria and overseas to himself.
In one of the counts, he was said to have converted 67 hectares of land in Imo State and another 109 hectares of land at Eleme, Rivers State to himself, thereby denying others their legitimate shares of their father’s property.
Ozigbu was also accused of using a forged Power of Attorney to obtain the sums of N40 million and to have, in 2014, used the forged document to obtain a property worth N5 billion said to belong to Ozigbu Engineering Limited.
In another count, he was accused of obtaining a heavy duty equipment worth N5 billion belonging to the late father’s company.
The matter has been adjourned till February 3, 2021 for trial.