…Wants Critically Sick Suspects Granted bail
A coalition of human right lawyers, the Forum for Equity and justice (FEJ), known for pro bono services in prison, on Wednesday raised alarm over what the worsening health condition of majority of the suspects remanded at the Agodi Prisons in Ibadan, Oyo State over allegations of being culpable in the N8 billion Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) scam, asking that those that need medical attention be granted bail pending their trial since the offence is a bailable one.
FEJ in an open letter titled, ‘Suspects deserve bail pending trial’, signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Akpoki, said most of the suspects are praying for a speedy trial to save them from possible untimely deaths and urged the Presidency, national Assembly and the judiciary to show concern over the predicament of the suspects as only five out of 20 had been granted bail and some of the affected inmates have life threatening ailments like high blood pressure while one is suffering from a hole in his heart.
It will be recalled that 20 suspects were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan on June 2 this year and while five of the suspects were granted bail, others were ordered to be detained at Agodi Prison, Ibadan by the Court.
FEJ national coordinator in the letter said families of the suspects are worried about the health conditions of their breadwinners especially since they had been in detention without trial for months while their families are in disarray and most of their children have dropped out of school. He added that the employers of the suspects had allegedly terminated their appointments, adding to the harrowing experiences being faced by their families.
He noted that whereas suspects involved in similar cases going on in Abuja had been granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction, the current fate of the suspects in respect of the CBN matter remanded in Ibadan is unhealthy and called on the authorities to quickly intervene so that the cause of justice is not delayed.
“There are some of the suspects with health challenges. One of the suspects has a hypertensive heart with a hole and sinusitis which requires urgent surgery. About five others are chronic diabetics; two have enteritis and enlarged prostates while some are acute hypertensive patients.
“There is still presumption of innocence in law until a suspect is found guilty. Incarceration pending trial should not be a death sentence. It is still funny, that all the accused persons had earlier enjoyed administrative bail by EFCC, before they were arraigned and they did not jump bail. They were reporting regularly to the EFCC on appointed dates. They were packed for trial on one of the appointed dates, through phone calls and they obliged.
“It is only a living person that can stand trial and that their corpses would be irrelevant to their trial and dispensation of justice, having not committed a capital offence. It is our solemn appeal, that accused persons, should be allowed to enjoy their natural right to bail pending trial. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” Akpoki stated.
The suspects were slammed with a five-count charge of fraud and related offences and they all pleaded not guilty. Part of the charge read that “the accused persons on or about August 5, 2014 in Ibadan within the jurisdiction of the Court and by virtue of abuse of your office, being employees of Central Bank of Nigeria, contributed to the economic adversity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when you destroyed a box marked ” Counted Audited Dirty” filled with Newspapers in place of a box containing N10,000,000 (Ten Million Naira) of N1,000 denomination and which activity led to the increase of money in circulation which the briquetting exercise of Central Bank of Nigeria was intended to control and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 1(2) (b) and Section 10 (1) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act, Cap. R4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014″.
Their application for bail was opposed by the EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) and they had been in custody at the Agodi prisons without trial since their arraignment.