14th October, 2011
Respite came the way of the embattled former governor of Ogun state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel who is being prosecuted by the EFCC as an Ogun state High Court presided over by Honourable Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje this afternoon granted him bail despite the on-going workersâ€™ strike in the state.
Daniel, who is facing a 16-count charge of stealing, conversion by trustee of state properties and non- declaration of assets while in office was granted a bail in the sum N500 million with two sureties in like sum and who have landed properties within the court’s jurisdiction.
Ruling on the bail application brought before it by the defence counsel, Justice Mabekoje said the two sureties must be resident within the court’s jurisdiction and show evidence of ownership of landed properties within the jurisdiction.
The judge who affirmed that though the offences were bailable, said the accused could not be granted bail on self-recognition as earlier requested by the defence counsel.
The judge further stressed that, though offences number 1 to 12 carry a maximum of seven years jail term while those from 13 to 16 carry a maximum of 10 years, the whole essence of granting bail was to ensure that the accused person is available to face the trial.
Justice Mabekoje emphasised that the bail granted to Daniel shall be readily revoked if it is proven that Daniel could interfere with the course of justice or that the safety of the prosecution witnesses is jeopardised.
The judge stated that the accused person should remain in the EFCC custody pending when he could meet the bail conditions.
Immediately after giving his ruling, Danielâ€™s supporters began to look for sureties.
Our correspondent later observed that the vehicles of both the Olomu of Omu Ijebu and the Ogirimadagbo of Ilodo entered the court, hoping that they came to stand as sureties for the ex-governor.
It was later clear that the duo of the Wusi of Makun Sagamu, Oba Timothy Adebisi Akinsanya and Col. Emmanuel Shoda (retd.) both from Sagamu,were going to stand as sureties for Daniel.
Earlier during the proceedings, EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs had opposed the bail application on the ground that the petitioners alleged that the ex-governor has a killer squad who could be influenced by Daniel to silence the prosecution witnesses.
While stressing the reason why his client should be granted bail, Osipitan informed the court that the EFCC had earlier granted Daniel administrative bail, urging the court to adopt the affidavit supported by the letter from the EFCC.
According to Osipitan, ” there is this letter dated 6 October, 2011 with the logo and letterheading of the agency trying my client. In the letter, EFCC informed my client that he has been granted bail by their own admission, asking him to produce certain documents, like international passport. With that, the EFCC has conceded in their own address that the accused person can be bailed. They should not oppose his bail, but talk on the conditions of the bail,” Osipitan sated.
Quoting authorities, Daniel’s counsel cited sec.120 Criminal Proceedure Act (CPA) of Ogun state, which states that bail conditions must be given in liberal terms, baring in mind that the accused person should be able to meet such conditions.
Osipitan however, pleaded that the condition of the bail should not be attached to serving officers from Ogun state.
According to him, â€œthe charge here is basically against Ogun state, Ogun state is the victim, no serving officer from Ogun state government should be surety. To include them, is to make the complainant a surety, because Ogun state government is the employer of all the public servants in the state.
“It will not be tidy for an employee to stand as a surety for a person who is alleged to have commited an offence against their employer and that will put their employment in jeopardy.”
In his submission, Osipitan pleaded that the court should grant the application on a very liberal term.
Opposing the bail application, counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs stated that he relied on all the 20 paragraphs counter affidavit, adding that he has also filed a written address attached to their affidavit opposing the bail.
According to him, ” we are relying on all the paragraphs for the said counter affidavit. We also filed a written address attached to the affidavit to oppose the bail. We rely and adopt it as our argument.”
While reacting to the oral submission of Daniel’s counsel, which he described as oral adumbration, Jacobs stated that it is the discretion of the court to decide whether he should be granted bail or not.
According to Jacobs ” I will only react to oral address on whether the EFCC has granted bail to the accused before or not. I want to say that the issue of bail is the discretion of the court, there should not be any action to stiffen the exercise and no precedence can stiffen the exercise of that discretion.
“No authority is binding on my lordship not to exercise this discretion, it is not automatic, that because the EFCC has granted bail, your lordship should also grant the bail, that is the sole discretion of your lordship.
“Your lordship cannot be bound by what is done administartively by EFCC. I am happy that they relied on sec. 35. I relied on sec. 35 (4) which states that, when a suspect is arrested , he must be charged within 24 hours. And if he is not charged, he must be released unconditionally. And as a law abiding agency, they complied with the provision of the constitution.
“When a cae is filed,it is a different ball game. That is what Sec.118 says, that your lord has power to grant bail, pending the trial,” he said.
The EFCC counsel, who reacted to the Exhibit marked O J 1, presented to the court by the defence counsel, said the fear is inherent in the condition to ensure that the accused will be available to face his trial.
According to him, ” the court should do everything possible to ensure that the accused is given a reasonable condition.
“Section 120 refered to by the defence counsel has to do with the amount to be taken, that will be the discretion of the court, having regard to the circumstances of the case, the environment, and an alleged corruption case for that matter, I urge your lordship to refuse the application.”
Reacting to the submission of the EFCC counsel, Osipitan argued that the submission is sentimental, saying that the word corruption mentioned by the counsel should be from ICPC and not EFCC.
He affirmed that the case as it is has shown that, the prosecutor has conceded that the accused should be granted bail.
He therefore urged the court once again to discharge the case judiciously and judicially.
After listening to the arguments of both counsel, the judge reminded the counsel that they had earlier stated in the affidavit and counter affidavit that they are ready for the trial next week.
Both parties agreed on the 17 November date for the commencement of the trial.
The judge later granted the bail application.
Daniel met the conditions at about 5p.m.
His supporters who had come wearing aso ebi and drumming, were disappointed as none of them was allowed near the court premises by the security men who cordoned all the roads leading to Kuto market, Isabo and NUD.
By Abiodun Onafuye/Abeokuta