A Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday, fixed Feb. 20 for ruling on a bail application filed by Ali Bello, identified as a nephew to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi and others.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu fixed the date after counsel to the defence, Ahmed Raji, SAN, and lawyer to the prosecution, M.K. Hussein, presented their arguments for and against the motion.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, on Feb. 8, arraigned Mr Bello and three others before Justice Obiora Egwuatu.
They were arraigned on 18-count charge of money laundering and misappropriation of about N3 billion.
The three other co-defendants are Abba Adauda, Yakubu Adabenege and Iyada Sadat, while Rashida Bello was said to be at large.
According to the EFCC, the defendants committed the crime between 2020 and 2021.
Bello and others, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges said to violate Sections 18(a), 15(20)(d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
Upon resumed hearing, Raji informed that two separate bail applications were filed on behalf of his clients.
He said the first application was filed on behalf of Bello (1st defendant) and the second was filed on behalf of the 2nd to 4th defendants.
He adopted the written addresses in urging the court to grant the request.
The senior lawyer, who argued that based on the 1999 Constitution, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, prayed the court to use its discretionary power in their favour.
He further argued that the anti-graft agency’s charge was based on mere allegations which could not be substantiated.
Besides, he said Bello was earlier granted an administrative bail by the EFCC during its investigation and did not breach the terms, hence, he wondered why the commission opposed to his bail plea.
Raji also urged the court to grant the 2nd to 4th defendants’ bail application.
He said that the commission had been investigating them for over a year and the EFCC admitted them to bail during which the international passport of the 3rd defendant was released to him to travel to Saudi Arabia without breaching bail conditions.
He urged the court to grant the prayer.
But Hussein, who opposed the application, said two separate counter affidavits were filed in the regard.
He said he relied on the depositions in opposing their applications.
The lawyer argued that the applicants had not shown sufficient materials to deserve the bail.
Hussein, who said they were flight risk, said they had the capability to interfere in the trial if granted bail.
Although he admitted that the defendants were earlier granted bail, he expressed fear that they could jump bail if the judge acceded to their request.
He prayed the court to refuse the application.
He, however, applied that excessive bail conditions should be attached if Justice Egwuatu decided otherwise.
But Raji urged the court to exercise its discretion based on Section 165(1) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
The judge fixed Feb. 20 for ruling.