Six days after he was remanded at Kuje Prison, former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu, who was accused of stashing N3billion at his house in Kaduna, on Tuesday, secured N300million bail from the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
Trial Justice; A. R. Mohammed ordered Yakubu who is facing money laundering charge, to also produce two sureties in the like sum.
The court stressed that one of the sureties must be an owner of landed property within the Federal Capital Territory, that is worth the bail sum.
Justice Mohammed ordered that the sureties must depose an affidavit of means before the court, as well as, submit their two recent passport photographs.
Likewise, the court seized Yakubu’s international passport, warning that he should not travel out of the country during the pendency of the case.
It held that an officer of the court will verify and confirm fulfilment of all the bail conditions.
“The defendant is to remain in prison custody pending fulfilment of all the bail conditions”, Justice Mohammed ruled.
Meanwhile, the court has fixed May 9 for commencement of the trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had on March 16, docked Yakubu on a six-count criminal charge, following which the court ordered his remand in prison custody pending ruling on his bail application.
The defendant who was GMD of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014, had shortly after he pleaded not guilty to the charge, begged the trial Judge to release him on bail pending the determination of charges against him.
His lawyer, Ahmed Raji, SAN, prayed the court to grant his client bail either on self-recognition or on very liberal terms. He argued that in line with sections 158 to 165 of the ACJA, 2015, except a capital offence was involved, an accused is ordinarily entitled to bail.
He told the court that whereas counts one and two of the charge attracts maximum of five years imprisonment upon conviction, while count three and four stipulated that 25 per cent of the alleged loot be forfeited to the Federal Government, he said the last two counts could only attract 10 years jail term.
“My lord the burden to prove that an accused or defendant is not entitled to bail in none capital offences, as in this one, is on the prosecution.
“In all the counter affidavits, they have not placed anything before this court to support or in discharge of that burden.
“The defendant is a responsible Nigerian who has no criminal record and has served his father land very well. I submit that the prosecution has not justified why he should be denied bail.
“I urge my lord to give the defendant bail on liberal terms, if not on self recognizance”, Raji submitted.
He said his client had options of not returning to the country. “He had a long visa, but he came back”.
In an affidavit Yakubu’s wife, Sarah, deposed to in support of the bail request, she told the court that her husband suspended his medical treatment for a prostrate related ailment at the United Kingdom and returned to Nigeria to honour EFCC summon.
She urged the court to order immediate release of her husband’s international passport by the EFCC enable him return to the UK for medical treatment.
However, the EFCC vehemently opposed Yakubu’s bail request, insisting that with the quantum of resources at the defendant’s disposal, he was capable of compromising some of the proposed witnesses.
EFCC lawyer, Ben Ikani further noted that though Yakubu claimed he has health challenges, he however failed to adduce any medical report to support his claim.
Meanwhile, in his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Mohammed said Yakubu did not strike him as someone capable of jumping bail considering that he came back to the country from the UK and voluntarily submitted himself to the to EFCC.
He said the prosecution failed under section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, to convince the court on why the defendant should not be released on bail.
“In the case at hand, the respondent has not been able to discharge the burden as was placed on it by the law. What the respondent has been able to do is to create apprehensions. “I am of the view that the applicant is entitled to bail”, the Judge held.
It will be recalled that following a tip-off from a whistle-blower, the EFCC, raided Yakubu’s guest house situated at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State, where it recovered the alleged loot which was in foreign currencies.
The anti-agency said it discovered the sum of $9.7million and £74,000 that Yakubu hid in a fireproof safe inside the house. The defendant earlier asked the high court to order the commission to return the seized money to him, insisting it was part of monetary gifts he received on various occasions.
The federal government had in the charge marked FHC/Abj/ CR/ 43/ 2017, alleged that Yakubu failed to declare the money in the assets form he filed at the EFCC on August 18, 2015, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(3) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under section 27(3) (c) of the same Act.
In count three and four of the charge dated March 9, FG, alleged that Yakubu had between 2012 and 2014, without going through a financial institution, received cash payments of $9, 772, 800 and £74, 000, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1 of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and punishable under section 16(2) of the Act.
In count five and six, federal government alleged that Yakubu had with intent to avoid a lawful transaction under the law, transferred at various times in Kaduna, aggregate sums of $9,772, 800 and £74, 000, when he reasonably ought to know that the said funds formed part of the proceed of some form of unlawful activity and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 7(4) (b) (ii) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, 2006.