Nigeria’s Ex-Power and Steel Minister, OLU AGUNLOYE, granted N50Million bail

Thursday, January 11, 2024
 – The Federal High Court in Abuja has granted the former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, bail in the sum of N50 million.

The court ordered the remand of Agunloye in Kuje prison after he was arraigned on seven counts bordering on fraudulent award of a contract and official corruption.

Agunloye, who served under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre after he was arraigned before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on his alleged complicity in fraud.

The defendant, who had also served as a Minister of State for Defence, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The court directed that he should remain in custody, pending the determination of his bail application.

Counsel for the former Minister, Adeola Adedipe, who moved his bail application prayed the court to grant the defendant bail by way of self-recognisance or in liberal terms, adding that Agunloye was not a flight risk and that the notion canvassed by the prosecution was “born out of misconception and communication barrier”.

The lawyer further appealed to the court not to order the use of a public servant as surety for his client.

The senior lawyer also argued that the apprehensive misconception about bail and the mischief argued by the prosecution has been cured by Section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).

Adeola said that under this provision, “once a defendant is admitted to bail, even if he absconds, the trial will continue and he will be convicted where necessary.”

However, the prosecution counsel opposed the bail application.

The trial judge, while granting the defendant bail, on Thursday, said that the pendulum of the court swung in favour of granting him bail.

The judge therefore granted N50 million bail to the defendant and ordered him to produce two sureties in like sum, stressing that the sureties must be “reputable” and “people of means” resident within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The court also ordered that the sureties must have properties worth N300 million with a Certificate of Occupancy that must be verifiable.

They must submit copies of their identity card and photocopies of their passports to the court.

The defendant is set to submit his passport to the court and must be present for the hearing at all times, while the matter was adjourned to February 12.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating Agunloye over the $6 billion Mambilla Hydropower Contract.

On December 13, 2023, Agunloye was declared wanted by the anti-graft agency over alleged fraud.

The commission which posted the wanted declaration on its official Facebook page had urged Nigerians who knew the whereabouts of Agunloye to report to the nearest police station or inform the EFCC.

On Wednesday, Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka raised the alarm that there was a high-level concern for Agunloye’s safety.

The literary icon recalled that Agunloye’s predecessor in the power ministry, Chief Bola Ige was murdered in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on December 23, 2001, and his tragic death had remained a mystery.

According to Soyinka, Ige’s killing was connected to the $6 billion Mambilla power scam for which Agunloye is currently being tried.

In a statement issued on Wednesday titled ‘A Pivotal Witness, And A Custodial Danger,’ Soyinka said, “Dr. Olu Agunloye, we learn, was finally charged to court today. The case was adjourned, and the presiding judge, in his or her wisdom, proceeded to remand the accused in Kuje prison, pending resumption of his case.

“I wish to alert the nation, and the government that there exists a justifiable, high level concern for his safety. His predecessor in office, the late Chief Bola Ige, was murdered in his bedroom by professional assassin even while his police protection detail took time off, all at the same time, to a nearby eatery. Till today, those mystery killers have yet to be identified, arrested, and tried.

“I have made it clear, even as recently as a few weeks ago, that Bola Ige’s murder was not unconnected with the Manbilla scam. Olu Agunloye worked closely with me, both within and outside routine police motions, to unmask Ige’s killers.

“It would therefore amount to unpardonable complacency to propose that there are no forces sufficiently desperate to accord him the same fate as Bola Ige. That goal is made easier by the abrupt decision to remand him in prison.”

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