A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday struck out a bail application filed by Ifeanyi Uba, the CEO, Capital Oil and Gas, and four others charged with N43.29 billion fuel subsidy fraud.
Others charged with Mr. Uba are Nsika Usoro, Godfrey Okorie, Chibuzor Ogbuokiri, and Joseph Orji, all employees of the Capital Oil and Gas.
The men, being prosecuted by the Nigeria Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU) before a Tinubu Magistrates’ Court in Lagos, were on Oct. 11 ordered to be remanded in the custody of the SFU for 14 days.
Mr. Uba and the others were charged with economic sabotage, obtaining money by false pretences, stealing of N43.291 billion, property of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, money laundering and forgery.
Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling, described the application as incompetent and defective.
Justice Abang also stated that counsel to the applicant, Joseph Nwobike (SAN), had failed to inform the court that the applicants were detained on a subsisting order of remand, made by Magistrate Martins Owumi.
He said that this fact was not deposed to by the applicants’ counsel in their affidavit of urgency before the court.
“I have gone through the affidavit filed by the applicants’ counsel, and I find no place where it is stated that there was a subsisting order for remand by the magistrate court.
“I cannot possibly comprehend why the learned SAN has chosen to hide this fact from the court,” he said.
He also stated that although the applicants could bring an application for bail before the court, they could not do so under the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
“Where bail is refused an applicant at the magistrates’ court, he has the right to bring his application before a higher court, but he has to do so within the confines of the law.
“I cannot make findings on the bail application of the applicants, brought pursuant to the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
“The applicants cannot use this rule to challenge a subsisting order of court. Whether the magistrate had or exceeded his jurisdiction is entirely a different issue,’’ Mr. Abang said.
According to him, the learned SAN should have employed either of three modes in bringing his bail application before this court;
The judge said that the applicants should have appealed against the order for remand made by the magistrate before the high court, pending the arraignment of the applicants.
He said that they could also have sent an application to the high court for a fresh summons for bail, pursuant to Section 118 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA).
“I cannot consider counsel’s application for the applicants to be released on bail under the fundamental rights enforcement procedure; this relief cannot be sought under that law.
“This is not a sentimental or emotional issue. It is an issue of law because there already is a subsisting order of court.
“The police possess the constitutional right to arrest any person accused of committing an offence, even if it is based on suspicion.
“In the final analysis, the preliminary objection of the respondent subsists in part and the application of the applicants struck out, with no order as to cost. I so hold” Abang ruled.
Nwobike had informed the court that the applicants had already been admitted to administrative police bail on Friday Oct. 19 by the SFU.
The Presidential Committee on the Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments had indicted Mr. Uba and some other oil marketers and companies of financial impropriety.