A Federal High Court in Ibadan, Oyo State on Friday refused bail to 10 bank workers standing trial for appropriating N8 billion mutilated bank notes but granted bail to 5 charged with the same offence, according to a Thisday report.
No fewer than 17 suspects are standing trial for the charge
Trial judge Olayinka Faji, in his ruling on the applications for bail, held that the cases against the accused were weighty, if the account balance and property allegedly acquired from the fraud were anything to go by.
Justice Faji agreed with the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) that the suspects were in possession of sums of money in excess of their legitimate earnings. He pointed out that some of them had bank account balance running into several millions of naira which was a far cry from what they earned as staffers or contract staff they claimed to be.
He said notwithstanding that all the 15 accused persons standing trial before him had during pre-trial sessions, pleaded not guilty to all the charges of false pretence, abuse of office, intent to defraud, tricking of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) among others, they all had cases to answer.
By their individual and collective activities through the years the fraud were going on, the judge held that they had severally increased the value of money in circulation thereby committing economic crimes with its attendant rise in inflation.
He decided all the cases on merit of their applications, affidavits and counter affidavits filed before him.
The four cases expeditiously decided on Friday were FHC/IB/31c/2015 comprising eight bankers; FHC/IB/32c/2015 comprising six bankers; FHC/IB/33c/2015 comprising five bankers and FHC/IB/34c/2015 which also comprised five bankers. The names of CBN staff; Kolawole Babalola, Toogun Kayode Philips and Olaniran Muniru Adeola featured in all the four cases alongside other bankers from some commercial banks like First Bank Plc, Ecobank, Sterling, Wema Bank among others.
However, Justice Faji who ordered all the eight bankers in the first case to be remanded in Agodi prison having refused their bail application in view of the weighty nature and evidence before the court, agreed to the bail of the 6th defendant in second case, Ademola Ebenezer Adewale.
Others granted bail were the 4th and 5th defendants in the case three; Kehinde Fadokun and Olutunde Sijuade. The two others who were granted bail are the 4th and 5th defendants in case four, Ajunwa Bolade and Samuel Ogbeide.
In granting them bail, the judge held that there was no strong evidence against the 6th defendant, Ademola Ebenezer Adewale to deny him bail in 32c/15. Similarly in 33c/15, no strong case against the fourth and fifth accused persons, Kehinde Fadokun and Olutunde Sijuade.
The bail conditions for the five accused persons entails providing two sureties with N20 million deposit, landed property with Certificate of occupancy within Oyo State, sureties to depose to affidavit of means with title documents fully verified, in addition to the provision of three years tax clearance, three passport photograph of each of them and visitation to the nearest EFCC office by the suspects at least once in every three weeks. The visitation day should be on Mondays, the judge maintained, while assuring the parties of accelerated hearings beginning from next week, June 26.
“The other criteria of nature of charge and severity of punishment however apply. I am of the view that 4th and 5th defendants are also border-line cases and deserve that the court lean in favour of their liberty. I therefore granted bail to the 4th and 5th in 34c/15, Ajuwon Bolade and Samuel Ogbeide.”
Among those denied bail were three CBN staff that were earlier on Monday visited with the same fate by Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court one. They are Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Muniru Adeola and Toogun Kayode Philips. Other seven are Isiq Akano (a.k.a. Isiaka), Ayodele Festus Adeyemi, Oyebamiji Hakeem, Ayodeji Aleshe, Ajiwe Sunday Adegoke, Oni Ademola Dolapo and Afolabi Esther Olunike.
It would be recalled that the CBN had on November 3, 2014, lodged a petition with the EFCC inviting the agency to take over the investigation and prosecution of the cases involving the swapping of currency boxes containing mutilated naira notes meant for routine destruction at its Ibadan branch.
The CBN had stated that “during a routine internal audit of the bank’s cash destruction activities in September 2014, the CBN Briquetting Panel comprising senior bank staff from different branches noticed some anomalies at the Ibadan branch and immediately reported this to the bank’s management. On further investigation ordered by the Governor, it was discovered that a systemic scheme, which has been on for several years, was being run in which mutilated higher denomination notes originally meant for destruction were swapped with lower denomination currencies”.