Both the prosecution and the defence in the trial of a former Head of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, for an alleged N1.18bn fraud on Monday had to plead with the presiding judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, of a Federal High Court in Abuja before he agreed to continue to handle the case.
Oronsaye and his co-accused, Osarenkhoe Afe, were on July 13 arraigned on 24 counts of fraud before Justice Kolawole and granted bail on July 21.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, Justice Kolawole indicated to withdraw from the case because of an earlier comment made by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN).
The judge was apparently not happy with Jacob’s complaint that the court had technically granted bail to Oronsaye when he was allowed to go home after his arraignment on July 13 even before his bail application was argued by his lawyer, on July 21.
He therefore declined to continue hearing the case on Monday.
But the judge rescinded his decision after both the defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) and the prosecuting counsel, who represented Jacob on Monday, Mr. Leke Atolagbe, pleaded with him to overlook the lead prosecutor’s comment.
The judge then adjourned the matter till October 28 and 29.
Justice Kolawole had granted bail to Oronsaye on self-recognition but to Afe in the sum of N50m with two sureties, one of whom must not be less than an officer on Grade Level 16 in either a federal or state government establishment.
The judge also ruled that one of Afe’s sureties must have property worth N75m within Abuja.
He ordered that both Oronsaye and Afe must deposit their passports and other travel documents with the court registrar.
Justice Kolawole ordered that in the event that the accused persons were unable to meet the bail conditions within one week, they should be re-arrested and remanded in Kuje prison in Abuja.
Afe is the Managing Director of Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, a company named as the third accused in the 24 counts preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The EFCC is prosecuting the accused persons for allegedly defrauding the Federal Government to the tune of N118,992,201.60, under the guise of paying the money in tranches for the contract of a biometric data capture project between March 2010 and December 2011.
The fraud was allegedly perpetrated through awarding and payment for phoney contracts to nine companies including Innovative Solutions, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services, Xangee Technologies Limited, Fatideck Ventures, Obalando Nigeria Enterprises, Moshfad Enterprises and Fesbee Global Resources Limited.