Fraud trial: Judge to return Orosanye case file over allegations of bias

Posted by News Express | 22 July 2015 | 3,324 times

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The trial of former Head of Service to the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye, and his co-accused person, Osarenkhoe Afe, witnessed a new twist yesterday when Justice Gabriel Kolawale of the Federal High Court, Abuja, said he intended to return the case file to the Chief Judge for reassignment.

The duo are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a N2 billion fraud.

Yesterday’s proceeding was for the hearing of the bail applications filed by Oronsaye and his co-accused, who are alleged to have been complicit in using two companies – Federick Hamilton Global Services Limited, and Xangee Technologies Limited, for shady biometrics enrolment deals to the tune of N2 billion.

Justice Kolawole had on July 13, 2015 released the accused persons to their counsel and fixed July 21, 2015 for hearing of the bail applications.

At the resumed sitting, prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, told the court that it would be “extremely difficult for him to oppose the bail applications for the accused persons,” because in his view, “the act of the last sitting, in which Oronsaye was released by the judge was tantamount to being released on bail” such that it might amount to a futile effort to now try to oppose their bail applications. He said that it would be better in the instance to “focus on the conditions that would be attached to the bail.”

He further noted that in the said bail application of Oronsaye, were already a list of sureties that could stand for the accused person, an indication that the accused person was sure of being granted bail.

Kanu Agabi, SAN, counsel to Oronsaye, on his own part, further urged to court not to send his client to prison custody, as “our prisons are bad” and averred that “bail can be granted on self recognizance”.

Counsel to Afe, Oluwole Aladedoye who also represented the third accused, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, added that the second accused had since 2011 when investigations in the alleged fraud began, “never fled but honoured the invitations by the EFCC.”

A third accused person, former Chairman of the Pension Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina who though not listed in the charge, but said to be at large, sent a lawyer, Esther Uzoma, to debunk the allegation that he was at large.

Uzoma claimed that Maina never got any invitation from the EFCC to appear before it. “I came here to clear the perception that he is at large,” she said.

But Jacobs insisted that Maina had been at large.

“It is a good development. He (Maina) has not retired but he is not at his offices‎. He has been in Dubai,” he said.

Jacobs urged the judge to extract an undertaking from Uzoma to the effect that she would produce her client in court.

Justice Kolawole, in his ruling, expressed the view that the remarks of Jacobs, were “intended to intimidate the court”, which was tacitly alleging bias on the part of the court.

The judge said, “I had wanted both defence and prosecution to come up with the terms of the bail, but the remarks of the prosecuting counsel that he will not oppose bail were in my view, intended to intimidate the court,” adding that, “the accused persons were presumed innocent until the contrary is proven in a fair hearing.”

He thereafter, granted bail to Oronsaye, in self recognisance, and ordered that his international passport be deposited with the chief registrar, of the Federal High Court Abuja.

His co-accused, was, however, not so lucky. In addition to depositing his international passport with the court, the judge granted Afe bail in the sum of N50million, two sureties each in like sum, who must be civil servants, retired or serving, either at federal or state government levels, not below Grade Level 16.

One of the sureties, the judge said, must have a landed property within Abuja jurisdiction. The two sureties must produce evidence of tax payment for the past three years and show affidavit of means in event he jumps bail. He gave Afe and his counsel till July 24, 2015 to meet the bail conditions or be remanded in Kuje Prisons.

Justice Kolawole, thereafter, fixed October 5, 2015 for mention, “to ascertain which judge will hear it.”

•Photo shows Oronsaye.


Source: News Express

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