The Oyo State High Court, sitting at Ring Road area has refused the bail applications filed by the former Head of Service of the state, Mrs Kudirat Iyabo Adeleke and 11 others standing trial for an alleged N5.6 billion pension fraud.
Justice Bolaji Yusuf, who gave the ruling, said counsel to the accused persons did not convince the court to rule in their favour.
Also standing trial with Adeleke are Muili Hakeem Aderemi, Iyabo Giwa, Adesina Jimoh Ayoade, Oguntayo Banji, Adebiyi Musediq Olasunmbo and Muili Adedamola.
Others are Adeduntan Johnson, Johnson Bosede, Kareem Rasheed, Olujimi Adebayo and Adewale Kehinde.
They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday, November 7 on a 213-count charge bordering on conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence and forgery.
According to the charge, “the accused persons allegedly withdrew the sum in bits from accounts belonging to the Oyo State Local Government Staff Pension Board in Fin Bank (now First City Monument Bank), Zenith Bank and Stanbic/IBTC bank between September 2010 and March 2011.”
The accounts were opened to effect payment of the pension and gratuities of retired local government workers in the state. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges when it was read to them at the court.
Some of the accused have argued for bail on health ground, while other argued that the offences are bailable and that they never jumped bail when granted in the past.
But while reviewing the documents presented to the court to argue the bail applications, the judge held that all the accused persons, who wanted to be granted bail on health ground, did not give any convincing evidence to prove that they were suffering from bad health that would warrant releasing them on bail pending the determination of the substantive case.
Making reference to Mr. Aderemi, who was said to be hypertensive, the judge said the EFCC had confirmed in its affidavit that he was truly suffering from the ailment but that he was given proper medical attention while in their custody.
She added that one of the accused persons’ claim that he had kidney disease could not be substantiated in the evidence before the court.
“An applicant has failed to place cogent and convincing materials before the court to prove that he is suffering from the ill-health,” she said.
Also commenting on the health of the former HoS, the judge said the letter attached to the application to inform the court of a serious health issue actually did otherwise.
According to her, the letter had only stated that the applicant was in the United Kingdom for a cosmetic operation and not on any grave health challenge as her lawyer, Mr. Richard Ogunwole, wanted the court to believe.
The judge said apart from the fact that the EFCC proved that it gave satisfactory medical care to the accused persons when they were in its custody, the state government had promised to attend to their medical needs if the health facilities in the prison proved inadequate.
On the position that they never jumped bail granted by the police, Magistrate Court and EFCC, the court ruled that such premise was not enough to exercise discretion in their favour.
“In granting bail, the court must consider the nature of the offence, the severity of punishment upon conviction and the prove of evidence before the court.
“The case before this honourable court is different from the one before the Magistrate Court. The case was at the preliminary stage when it was with the police; the case before the Magistrate Court was without the prove of evidence as supplied here,” she said.
Justice Yusuf said the severity of the offence was enough to tempt the accused persons to want to jump bail.
According to her, though not punishable by death, offence of conspiracy to obtain money through false pretence and forgery, was classified as felony and attracts jail terms of minimum of seven years and maximum 20 years without option of fine.
She therefore, refused them bail but opted for speedy trial as suggested by the EFCC.
While declaring the readiness of the court to give accelerated hearing, she solicited for cooperation of the parties in the matter, and adjourned the case till December 12 and 13 for hearing.