Justice Nicholas Oweibo of a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday admitted Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie, a lawyer to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and his brother, Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, currently standing trial for alleged money laundering offence, to bail in the sum of N20 million each with one surety each in like sum.
The trio were freed on bail following the hearing of their bail motions by the court.
In his ruling on the bail motion filed by the Giwa-Osagies, Justice Oweibo ordered that their sureties must be residents of Lagos and must produce evidence of means through an affidavit.
The defendants were however released to their lawyers, Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Norrison Quakers (SAN) for 14 days pending perfection of the bail terms.
In his ruling on Babalele’s bail motion, Justice Oweibo said his surety must be Lagos resident and have property within the jurisdiction of the court.
The surety was also ordered to present his recent passport photograph, while his address must also be verified.
Justice Oweibo, however, ordered Babalele’s remand in EFCC’s custody pending perfection of his bail conditions.
The judge had earlier taken arguments for and against the admittance of the defendants to bail from both the defence lawyers and prosecution lawyers.
Babalele’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), urged the court to grant his client bail on self-recognisance.
He noted that his client, whom he described as “a decent Nigerian,” did not run away when EFCC granted him administrative bail, adding that he reported at the Commission when asked to.
“He is not the kind of person that will jump bail and abscond from justice. If he didn’t do that with EFCC, why will he now dare now that he is before a court of law?
“This is a matter of discretion, one that should be exercised judiciously. Discussing whether he is guilty or not is premature at this stage, but if you look at the proof of evidence filed by EFCC, my client has said he paid N50 million to Bashir Mohammed to send to the Obasanjo Library for intellectual development and that he never handled dollars.
“If Bashir Mohammed in his wisdom changed it to dollars, it means the wrong person is in the dock. The transaction my client did was a bank transfer. It does not lie with the prosecution to say they are still investigating. It is assumed that you have finished your investigation the moment you charge an accused to court,” the silk argued.
Raji, who spoke for the Giwa-Osagies, said the alleged offence was bail able.
“A party who voluntarily submits to an investigating agency should not be denied bail,” he said.
He also urged the court to grant Uyiekpen bail on self-cognisance, having practised law for over 30 years.
EFCC’s lawyer, Umar Buhari, was however opposed to the bail motions. He said the defendants could interfere with witnesses having seen the “overwhelming” evidence against them.
The defendants were on Wednesday arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on separate charges bordering on money laundering.
While Giwa-Osagie brothers were arraigned on a three-count charge of alleged laundering of $2 million, Babalele was docked on two counts of alleged laundering of $140,000. They, however, denied all the counts.
In the charge against Babalele, EFCC accused him of procuring one Bashir Mohammed to make cash payment of the sum of $140,000 without going through any financial institution.
The offence was said to be contrary to Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.