The Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday granted former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose N50m bail with one surety in like sum.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun ruled on his bail application following his arraignment on Monday for alleged money laundering.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Fayose for allegedly receiving and using N1.2billion and $5million stolen funds.
His lawyer, former Attorney-General of the Federation Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), urged the court to grant the former governor bail on self-cognisance as a former governor.
According to him, there was a presumption of innocence of an accused until guilt is established.
Besides, he said the former governor was very eager to see the conclusion of the case and so would not jump bail.
Agabi told the court that Fayose willfully submitted himself to the EFCC immediately after leaving office as governor, which shows his readiness to face the charge.
He said: “We have before your Lordship a bail application. It is supported by a 15-paragraph affidavit and a written address in support of our motion. We urge your Lordship to grant our application.
“We agree that bail is totally at the discretion of court and urge your Lordship to grant it. The prosecution has filed a counter affidavit but the law allows for presumption of innocence.
“Opposition by the prosecution cannot take away the discretionary power of your Lordship.
“The defendant reported to the EFCC the day after he left office as a governor. I urge your Lordship to grant him bail on self-cognisance.
“I assure your Lordship that he will not jump bail; he won’t run away.”
But, prosecuting counsel Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), opposed the bail application.
He informed the court about a counter affidavit in opposition to the bail motion, adding that although bail is a constitutional right, there were limitations.
“The issue of presumption of innocence has to do with trial and for now, no one is saying he is guilty,” he said
Jacobs opposed the application for bail on self-cognisance on the ground that being a former governor was not a yardstick for being granted bail on liberal terms.
According to him, intelligence reports revealed that the defendant would interfere with witnesses and proceedings, and may jump bail if granted bail.
He urged the court to refuse bail, adding that Fayose allegedly reported at EFCC with thugs.
Jacobs said: “We filed a 22-paragraph counter-affidavit. We agree that bail is at the discretion of the court but the constitutional right to liberty is can be deprived.
“Self-cognisance should not be for special people and office. If a poor man cannot be admitted to bail on self-cognisance, then it should not apply to anyone else.
“Rather, we urge the court to order accelerated hearing.”
Jacobs added that intelligence reports also revealed that some of the listed witnesses who served in Fayose’s administration had already expressed fear of intimidation.
In a short ruling, Justice Olatoregun noted that the issues raised by the prosecution in its counter affidavit were grave, but that the accused would be given benefit of the doubt.
She held: “The defendant is admitted to bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.”
The surety, she said, must present a bond of N50 million from a reputable insurance company or a first line bank acceptable to the court.
The judge held that the surety should produce three-year tax clearance.
Justice Olatoregun urged Fayose to ensure he attends court for trial unfailingly, otherwise, the bond would be forfeited.
The former governor was directed deposit his international passport in the court’s registry.
Justice Olatoregun ordered that Fayose be remanded in EFCC’s custody in the interim.
EFCC arraigned Fayose on an 11-count charge of violating the Money Laundering Act.
He was charged with his company, Spotless Limited.
EFCC said Fayose and his associate Abiodun Agbele, who is facing a different charge, allegedly took possession of N1, 219, 000, 000 on June 17, 2014 to fund the former governor’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
The commission said Fayose “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”
The alleged offence is contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4).
EFCC said Fayose, on the same day, received cash payment of $5million from then Minister of State for Defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through a financial institution, the sum having exceeded the amount authorised by law.
The alleged offence, EFCC said, contravenes Sections 1 and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.
The commission said Fayose benefitted from N4.65billion slush funds allocated by the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) under Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) during the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
EFCC listed Obanikoro as one of 22 witnesses that will testify in the trial.
Fayose was also accused of retaining stolen N300million in his fixed deposit account, and allegedly deposited another stolen N317million in an belonging to Spotless Investment Limited, a company controlled by him and members of his family.
He was also accused of acquiring several property in Lagos and Abuja, including one bought in his elder sister’s name using part of the stolen funds.
In the last count, EFCC said Fayose, on or about January 30, 2015, did procure Still Earth Limited to retain in its account, the sum of N132.5million.
The sum, said the prosecution, “formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity, to wit: gratification which you received from Samchase Nigeria Limited.”
The alleged offence is contrary to Section 18 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3).
Fayose pleaded not guilty to the 11-count charge.
Justice Olatoregun adjourned until November 19 for trial.