The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, admitted a former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, to bail.
Mr Okorocha and his co-defendant, Anyim Nyerere, on Monday, pleaded not guilty to allegations of stealing N2.9 billion public funds while the former was in office.
Subsequently, the defendants filed their separate bail requests.
Mr Okorocha’s lawyer, Solomon Umoh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), while arguing the bail application, begged the judge, Inyang Ekwo, to admit his client to bail on “liberal terms.”
He contended that it was within Mr Okorocha’s “constitutional right” to be granted bail based on the doctrine of “presumption of innocence.”
“The (bail) applicant (Mr Okorocha) has been a man known in this society, therefore, the procesecution’s (EFCC) contention that he could not be served with the charge is not true as he could have been served through subbstituted means,” Mr Umoh told the judge.
The defence lawyer asked the judge to admit Mr Okorocha to bail on self-recognisance. “We beg the court that the applicant be admitted to bail on liberal terms.”
Similarly, Mr Nyerere through his lawyer, Oba Maduabuchi, asked the court to admit him to bail based on the earlier administrative bail granted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“There is no day that he (Mr Nyerere) was requested to come to court that he did not come,” Mr Maduabuchi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the court.
But the EFCC opposed the Messrs Okorocha and Nyerere’s bail requests.
The lawyer to the anti-graft agency, O.C Ugwu, while opposing the defendants bail applications, chronicled how Mr Okorocha evaded service of court documents.
“On two consecutive occasions, the 1st defendant (Mr Okorocha) frustrated his arraignment by refusing to appear in court,” the prosecuting lawyer told the judge.
Mr Ugwu argued that Mr Nyerere “will jeopardise the criminal administration system if granted bail.”
“He will tamper with evidence and compromise witnesses because he is directly linked to the alleged crimes,” he contended.
But in a ruling, the judge admitted Mr Okorocha to a N500 million bail.
Mr Ekwo said bail is at the discretion of the court.
The judge further noted that the constitution provides for the defendant to be given adequate time to defend himself.
While granting Mr Okorocha bail, the judge imposed a N500 million bail bond “with one surety in a likesome who must be within the jurisdiction of this court.”
Mr Ekwo directed the Federal High Court registry to verify the documents of property to be presented as bail bond.
He also ordered Mr Okorocha to deposit his international passport with the court registry.
Mr Okorocha will remain in the custody of the EFCC pending his compliance with the bail conditions.
The judge admitted Mr Nyerere to the earlier administrative bail that was granted to him by the EFCC.
Subsequently, the Mr Ekwo adjourned the suit until November 7, for commencement of trial.