Nicholas Oweibo, a judge of the Federal High Court, in Lagos has granted bail in the sum of N20 million to Abdullahi Babalele, the son-in-law of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate in 2019, Atiku Abubakar.
The ruling was delivered on Thursday after the bail hearing brought before the court by defence counsel, Mike Ozhekome.
While delivering the ruling, Mr Nicholas said, “bail is granted in the sum of N20 million with one surety in like sum, the surety must be resident within the jurisdiction of this honourable court and have property within the jurisdiction of the court with passport photograph and address of the surety verified.
“The defendant’s passport shall be submitted to this court and pending fulfilment of bail terms, the defendant is remanded in EFCC custody.”
While arguing for bail earlier in the proceeding, Mr Ozhekome told the court that his client “has been a faithful and decent Nigerian who believes that the ACJA and constituted authorities should be respected”. “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 the 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.”
In response, Usman Buhari, representing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told the court that bail is not the right of the defendant but at the discretion of the court.
He said the defendant “has not placed any evidence before the court to warrant the court exercising its discretion, therefore the application of the defendant should be rejected”.
Mr Babalele was arraigned yesterday by the EFCC on a two-count charge of money laundering of $140,000, an offence he reportedly committed in February.
The EFCC, which first arrested the suspect in February, said it suspected the cash was for votes buying and had placed him on administrative bail while investigations continued.
He was, however, rearrested on August 9 prior to his arraignment on Thursday.
The offences are 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.