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Alleged N2bn fraud: Judge grants Oronsaye bail, backs off case

The trial judge in the case involving a former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye, has said he intends to excuse himself from the case over an allegation of bias.

The judge, Gabriel Kolawole, granted Mr. Oronsaye bail Tuesday, nearly a week after the former Head of Service was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Mr. Oronsaye, alongside Osarenkhoe Afe of Frederick Hamilton Global Services Limited, were arrested on allegations of corruption.

The former head of service and Mr. Afe are accused of using two companies – Frederick Hamilton Global Services Limited, and Xangee Technologies Limited — for shady biometrics enrolment in a N2 billion fraud.

The judge had ordered last week that the former head of service be released after his lawyer, and the counsel to Mr. Afe, undertook to produce them in court on Tuesday when their bail applications will be heard.

But Tuesday’s hearing took a new twist as the judge, Mr. Kolawole, said he would surrender the case for reassignment of the matter.

His remarks followed an argument by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, that it would be difficult to oppose bail applications for the accused persons after their release last week.

“The act of the last sitting, in which Oronsaye was released by the judge was tantamount to being released on bail,” he said.

He said he would rather focus on the conditions of the bail, than oppose it, as such effort would be futile.

He said Mr. Oronsaye already had a list of sureties to meet bail conditions, an indication that he was certain of being granted bail.

Kanu Agabi, counsel to Mr. Oronsaye, urged the court not to send his client to prison custody. He said, “Our prisons are bad.”

He urged the court to grant the accused bail “on self-recognizance”.

The counsel to the co-accused, Oluwole Aladedoye, who also represented Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, added that the second accused had since 2011, when investigations into the alleged fraud began, never fled but honoured the invitations by the EFCC.

The judge, in his ruling said Mr. Jacobs’ view regarding bail for Mr. Oronsaye was intended to intimidate the court, alleging bias on the part of the court.

“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.”

He said the accused persons were presumed innocent until the contrary is proven in a fair hearing.

Mr. Kolawole however granted bail to the former head of service on self-recognition, and ordered that his international passport be deposited with the Chief Registrar, of the Federal High Court Abuja.

His co-accused, Mr. Afe was however, not so lucky.

In addition to depositing his international passport with the court, the judge granted Mr. Afe bail on conditions that a N50 million bail bond be made available with 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 Mr. Afe and his counsel till July 24, 2015 to meet the bail conditions or be remanded in Kuje Prisons.

Mr. Kolawole also fixed October 5 for mention to ascertain which judge will hear the case.

Mr. Oronsaye, 64, was appointed the Head of the Nigerian Civil Service in 2009.

Meanwhile, the third accused, Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Task Team, who was not listed in the charge, sent a lawyer, Esther Uzoma, to debunk claims that he was at large.

Ms. Uzoma said her client never got an invitation from the EFCC to appear before it.

“I came here to clear the perception that he is at large,” Ms. Uzoma said.

But Mr. Jacobs insisted that the third accused 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,” Mr. Jacobs said.

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

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