Justice Babs O. Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 granted bail to Gbenga Makanjuola, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and three others, who are being prosecuted for a N3.5bn fraud.
Makanjuola is facing trial alongside Kolawole Shittu, cashier to the Senate President; Robert Chidozie Mbonu, a former Managing Director, Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, SGBN (who is still at large), Melrose General Services Limited and Obiora Amobi, Operation Manager, Melrose General Services Limited over an amended 11-count charge bordering on alleged conspiracy, accepting cash payment beyond threshold and money laundering to the tune of N3.5billion.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Gbenga Makanjuola, sometime in December 2016 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did accept cash payment of the sum of $500, 000. 00 (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars Only) from Kolawole Shittu without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.”
Another count reads: “That you, Robert Chidozie Mbonu ( now at large) and Melrose General Services Limited between the 14th day of December , 2016 and January, 2017 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, took control of the sum of N3, 500,000,000.00( Three Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira Only) transferred from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum’s account into Access Bank Plc account number 0005892453 by Melrose General Services Limited, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund represented the proceeds of lawful activities to wit-conspiracy, stealing and fraud-and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (9) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011( as amended by the Act No.1, 2012) and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
At the last sitting on October 3, 2018, counsel to the second and fourth defendants, Paul Erokoro, SAN, moved bail applications on behalf of his clients, saying,“My Lord, they are full-time staff of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Also, counsel to the third defendant, Omeoga Chukwu, had urged the court to admit his client to bail in the most liberal terms, saying, “My Lord, my cleint has been reporting monthly to the EFCC office for about two years since he was granted an administrative bail,” he had pleaded.
However, counsel to the prosecution, Ekene Iheanacho, had responded with a counter-affidavit to the bail applications.
In opposing the bail application, he said: “My Lord, the defendants were not responding to invitations until we threatened to revoke the administrative bail granted them. One of the defendants absconded after granting him an administrative bail. This is what necessitated the amendment of the charges.”
Consequently, Justice Kuewumi had remanded the defendants in Ikoyi prison and adjourned till October 9, 2018(today) for ruling on the bail applications.
In his ruling Tuesday, the judge granted the defendants bail in the sum of N250 million bail bonds each, with two sureties in like sums. The sureties must be resident in Lagos and must have landed properties with Certificate of Occupancy, CoO, within the Lagos metropolis.
Also, the sureties must show evidence of tax payments and letters of identification from their banks. Each of the defendants was ordered to deposit four recent passports with the Court Registrar.
Justice Kuewumi remanded the defendants in prison custody pending the perfection of their bail conditions and adjourned till December 4, 2018 for commencement of trial.