Former NBA Vice President gets bail, hires 5 SANs

The senior lawyer was accused of violating previous bail condition

After spending the last five days in detention, a former Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Blessing Ukiri, Thursday, flexed his legal muscle as he got five Senior Advocates of Nigeria and 36 other lawyers to represent him court.

Mr. Ukiri is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for a N35 million fraud and money laundering charge.

Uche Agomoh, the presiding judge of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, granted Mr. Ukiri, bail for N2 million with two sureties in like sum.

Mr. Ukiri is alleged to have converted N35 million judgment sum, paid by the Central Bank of Nigeria to his client, Samuel Onowighose, for personal use. He was docked on Monday on a three count charge. He was accused of using part of the money to acquire 150 thousand units of First Bank of Nigeria Plc. shares and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 14 (1) (a) Of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.

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While ruling on the bail application, the Judge said that the two sureties must both be Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, and must be from among the team of lawyers representing the accused person in Court.

Counsel to EFCC, A. I. Arogha, prayed the Court not to grant the accused person bail. He argued that the accused was granted administrative bail by the commission in 2007, with conditions which included the accused reporting at the EFCC office. He said Mr. Ukiri defaulted in the bail condition and never showed up as contained in the bail bond.

Mr. Arogha also said that the accused would jump bail if granted.

The lead counsel to the accused, Albert Akpomudje, argued that the offence, for which the accused was standing trial, was predicated on a non-existent allegation. According to him, the accused person only performed his legal duties. He asked the Court to grant the accused person bail, as the offence was bailable.

Mr. Akpomudje further pleaded with the Court to consider the position of the accused as a senior member of the NBA and grant him bail on self recognition. He further promised to stake his legal wig and gown as he argued that the accused will not jump bail.

The Court granted the accused bail and adjourned proceedings to November 29 for trial.

The five Senior Advocates that represented Mr. Ukiri, a presidential candidate in the last NBA elections, are: Albert Akpomudje, Lucius Nwosu, Beluolisa Nwofor, G. Akibor and Sebastian Hon.

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