- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 07:09
- Written by The Nation
- Hits: 1725
FOR detained former Group Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Dr Erastus Akingbola, it was time to go home on Monday. A Federal High Court in Lagos granted him conditional bail. Akingbola has spent three weeks in detention.
In a ruling, Justice Mohammed Idris granted him N500 million bail with three sureties who are to sign bonds of similar amount.
Akingbola, the judge held, is to report at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the first working day of every week until otherwise directed by the court.
The court barred him from travelling outside the country during the pendency of the case and ordered him to deposit his international passport with its Chief Registrar.
Justice Idris held that those to qualify as Akingbola’s sureties must be Nigerian residents with landed properties within the jurisdiction of the court. They are required to deposit the original title documents of their properties with the court’s Registrar.
The court also directed that such sureties must show evidence of tax payment for the last eight years and shall deposit the original copies of their tax clearance certificate with the Registrar.
"The original title documents and the tax clearance certificates shall be verified and confirmed genuine by the relevant land and tax authorities," the court held.
Justice Idris hinged his decision to grant the accused bail mainly, on the ground that he voluntarily returned to the country from the United Kingdom.
He refused argument by the prosecuting agency - the EFCC - that the accused absconded from the country. He voided a notice exhibited by the EFCC, containing information that Akingbola was purportedly declared wanted.
The court held that it was convinced that the EFCC purportedly declared Akingbola wanted days after he had left the country.
Justice Idris also upheld the argument by Akingbola’s lawyer, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) that his client lacked the capacity to interfere with prosecution’s witnesses because he was no longer in the bank.
EFCC had argued that Akingbola, having headed the Intercontinental Bank for over 20 years, could influence its witnesses who are mostly officials of the bank.
The judge held that it could not be said that Akingbola will interfere with prosecution witnesses because there was a new management in the bank which controls members of staff.
Justice Idris, justifying the conditions attached to the bail, said he was not disposed to granting bail with stringent conditions.
"Judges have, however, been warned not to mistake discretion for drama and sensational bail conditions. I am aware they achieve nothing but hitting the headlines of newspapers. For this reason, the accused person is hereby granted bail," he held.
The court adjourned to October 25 for the commencement of trial.
Akingbola, who surrendered to the EFCC on August 5, was arraigned on August 13 on a 22-count charge bordering on financial crimes. He has been in the EFCC custody since he returned.