By Davidson Iriekpen, 04.22.2010
The Chairman, Afribank Nigeria Plc, Osa Osunde, the bank’s former Managing Director, Sebastian Adigwe and five others were arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday.Others include Isa Zailani, Chinedu Onyia, Henry Arogundade (Directors of the bank) and Peter Ololo (Managing Director, Falcon Securities Limited) and his company.
The name of Jibrin Isah (an Executive Director of the bank) earlier listed as an accused person, was deleted from the charge list on the request of the prosecution which did not give any reason for his decision.They were arraigned on an amended 33-count charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The charge was an amendment of an earlier one on which Adigwe, Ololo and his company were earlier arraigned and granted bail last year.Their alleged offences bordered on granting of loans without adequate securities, granting loan above their approval limit, manipulating the cost of the bank’s shares in the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and granting loans without prior approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
They were also accused of granting loans to companies in which they have interests, failing to ensure true reflection of the bank’s accounts in its returns to the CBN, and securing loan with the bank’s shares. About N55 billion is said to be involved.All the accused persons, except Adigwe pleaded not guilty to the charge. Adigwe refused to answer to the charge on the ground that he intended to challenge its competence. He said the proof of evidence attached to it failed to establish a prima facie case against him.
Justice J. T. Tsoho, granted bail to the others with the exception of Adigwe on the ground that the prosecution did not oppose their bail applications. He reserved ruling to April 26 on Adigwe’s bail application. His decision to reserve ruling on Adigwe’s application was informed by the lengthy arguments by both the prosecution led by Rotimi Jacobs and Anthony Idigbe (SAN), representing Adigwe, on whether or not Adigwe should be granted bail even when he failed to answer to the charge..
Others were granted as per the conditions attached by Justice Daniel Abutu to the bail granted Adigwe and Ololo on September 15 last year.Justice Tsoho ordered Adigwe to remain in the custody of the EFCC until ruling is delivered in his bail application. Others are also to remain in the same custody until they are able to perfect their bail. digbe had while arguing the Atuch'e bail application urged the court to admit his client to bail even when he did not pllead to the charge. __He cited Sections 35 (4) and 36 of the Constitution to support his claim that every accused person, except those being tried for capital offense, was entitled to bail.__He added that by virtue of Section 119 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), the granting of bail is not dependent on arraignment.__Opposing bail for Adigwe, Jacobs said it was wrong for the court to grant him bail having failed to submit himself to the court's jurisdiction by pleading to the charge.__On Idigbe's argument that his client could remain of the bail earlier granted him, Jacobs said the bail has lapsed since the case has been transferred to a new judge.