By Peter OSSAI- Abuja
Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja High Court has said that the court is bound to respect the presumption of an accused innocence until proved otherwise. He said this in a ruling granting bail to former chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall, Alex badeh on Thursday.
After more than a month in detention by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh was admitted on bail in the sum of N2 billion by the Federal High Court, with two sureties in the sum of N1 billion each.
Justice Okon Abang who imposed the conditions, described as the most stringent bail conditions ever imposed on accused person held that the two sureties must reside in Abuja and must be owners of landed properties with Certificate of Occupancy.
It is not clear at press time whether the ex CDS has been able to meet the bail conditions, but his lawyers assured that something is being done about ii, Even as the court further directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to also verify the genuineness of the documents, that may be submitted within 24 hours after submission.
Other conditions imposed on badeh’s sureties include the presentation of three years tax clearance, and also deposition to an affidavit of means, besides submitting their recent two passport photographs and also tell the court the means by which they would pay the bail sum if in the event they are called to do so.
The court however discountenanced the argument of the prosecution that Badeh would jump bail if granted due to the gravity of the evidence against him.
The court held that submission of the prosecution was speculative and the security agency knew what to do in the event such happened.
He further held that Badeh should be presumed innocent, until it was proved otherwise before the court, adding that the prosecution was saddled with burden of proof.
He however noted that the court was expected to balance the rights of the defendant and the fear of the prosecution that the defendant would jump bail.
Justice Abang said that his ruling was to balance the justice on both sides.
EFCC had arraigned the former CDS on a 10-count charge bothering on alleged diversion of fund belonging to the Nigerian Air Force.
Badeh had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was consequently reminded in Kuje prisons pending the determination of his bail application.
At the resumed hearing of the bail application on Thursday, Badeh through his counsel, Mr. Samuel Zibiri (SAN) prayed the court to admit the defendant to bail. Badeh was not in court when the bail application was argued and no reason was given for his absence.
Zibiri premised his application on the provisions of Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 165(1) and (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act submitting that the defendant was entitled to bail.
He further informed the court that the EFCC had earlier granted the defendant administrative bail and he had since been honouring every invitation by the anti graft agency.
He drew the attention of the court to a letter written by the chambers of Joe Kyari Gadzama SAN showing that the defendant would be available for his trial.
He also drew the attention of the court to a medical report on the health status of the defendant.
He added that the documents were not rebutted by the prosecution. In addition, he submitted that the defendant had served the country for 35 years, without any criminal record.He however prayed the court to admit the defendant to bail in self recognizance.
Opposing the bail application, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) argued that there was overwhelming evidence against the defendant that might prompt him to jump bail if granted.
He further submitted that there was evidence that the defendant obtained a huge sum of money belonging to NAF and converted same to dollar equivalent to purchase a property.
He added that the anti graft agency discovered and seized the sum of $1 million cash in one of the rooms in the said property, adding that the money would be tendered at the appropriate time.
Jacobs also submitted that the prosecution would be presenting as part of its witnesses, some of the subordinates of the ex CDS, adding that such was enough for him (Badeh) to run away so as to avoid trial.
On the two documents tendered by the defendant, the prosecution submitted that they were not certified.
On the medical reports, the prosecution argued that the defendant had not met the condition as to warrant bail on health grounds.
The trial has been adjourned till March 13.
The EFCC alleged that Badeh, while serving as Chief of Air Staff and Iyalikam Nig Ltd, between January and December 2013 did use Dollar equivalent of the sum of N1,100,000,000 (One billion, one hundred million Naira), removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force to purchase for themselves a mansion at Maitama, Abuja.
According to the anti graft agency, the accused person “reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity (to wit) criminal breach of trust and corruption.
The offence, the EFCC said is contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
Badeh and his company were also accused of removing from the accounts of the NAF, and did use Dollar equivalent of N650million to purchase a commercial plot at plot 1386, Oda crescent Cadastral zone Ao7 Wuse ll Abuja.