Former Special Adviser to ex-governor Abdul Fatah Ahmed on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ope Saraki has been arraigned before Kwara state High Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),
He is facing trial over an alleged N220 million fraud.
The defendant, who was brought before the court on a two-count charge of corrupt practices and other related offences Act 2000, pleaded not guilty.
The counts read: “That you, Ope Saraki, sometime in 2012 whilst being the Special Adviser to the Governor of Kwara State on MDG, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, knowingly acquired indirectly a private interest in a contract worth N171.99,000.00 awarded to Chemiroy Nigeria Limited, for the purchase of 13 units of Ambulances for 13 general/specialist hospitals in Kwara state, contract connected to your office contrary to section 12 of the corrupt practices and other related offences Act 2000, and punishable under the same law.
“That you, Ope Saraki, sometime in 2012 whilst being the Special Adviser to the Kwara State on MDG, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, knowingly acquired indirectly a private interest in a contract worth N49.349.827.00 awarded to MC Drive Logistics and Institute Limited, for the purchase of 13 units of 100 KVA Generators for 13 general/specialist hospitals in Kwara, contract connected to your office contrary to section 12 of the corrupt practices and other related offences Act 2000, and punishable under the same law.”
After the defendant’s plea, EFCC counsel Susan Ola urged the country to remand him in prison custody.
Ola said: “In view of the defendant’s plea, we apply for a date for trial and urge the court to remand him in prison custody pending the determination of the case.”
But lead counsel to the defendant Dr Joshua Olatoki (SAN) opposed the prosecution’s application, praying the court to grant him bail pending the trial.
He said: “As senior counsel speaking from the bar, I submit that the two-count charges are the same material particular before a Federal High Court. The trial has commenced before the Federal High Court, Ilorin in 2015. The defendant is on bail by self-recognisance; that what led to this case started in 2013 and the EFCC had granted him administrative bail from then till yesterday. It is time for the court not to allow its integrity to be rubbished by any party.
“Having been granted bail, I submit that he has not misused the opportunity. I urge my lord to grant him bail in this charge.
“His international passport is in the possession of the EFCC, so he has nowhere to run to. He has reliable sureties within the jurisdiction of this court.
“This is a matter that is ordinarily bailable and the court has the discretion to grant bail without any formal application.
“I also urge my lord to grant him bail on liberal terms. Alternatively, if he is to be remanded, I suggest he be remanded in
Responding again, EFCC counsel said “this is a court of record. The appropriate thing to do is for the parties to file the proper application. On this note, I urge the court to discountenance the evidence of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
In her ruling, presiding judge Adenike Akinpelu granted the defendant bail in the sum of N300 million and two sureties pending the formal application for his bail.
She added that the defendant’s international passport should remain in possession of the EFCC.
Mrs Akinpelu then adjourned the case to April 16th for hearing of the bail application and trial.