Two of the three staff of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCo) attached to Arik Airlines accused of stealing N1.5million from the luggage of a Governor Godswill Akpabio’s protocol attachee, Ebakabasi Etuk, at Ibom International Airport penultimate Saturday, have been arraigned in court.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom State Police Command, Onyeka Orji, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP), confirmed to Premium Times that the suspects, who have been in custody at the Akwa Ibom State Police Command headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia since the incident, were arraigned on Monday at the Chief Magistrate Court 1 in Uyo, the state capital.
Mr. Orji would not volunteer further details on the identities of the suspects, claiming it would be sub-judicial to divulge such details once the case has commenced in court.
But Premium Times gathered that the prime suspect, one Victor Eshiet Usenekong, who was in charge of the baggage unit of Arik Airlines, was arraigned along with his accomplice, Inyang Cyril Sylvester, on two-count charge of stealing the sum of N1.5million cash at the Ibom International Airport on February 26, 2012.
Initial report had suggested that the suspects stole N2million.
According to the charge read in court, the suspects were accused of conspiring among themselves to commit felony and committing an offence punishable under section 552 of the criminal code CAP. 38, Vol. 11 Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2000.
After reading the charge to them at the court, the presiding magistrate granted them bail in the sum of N3million each, after they pleaded not guilty.
Their arraignment followed two previous failed attempts since the incident took place.
Mr. Orji had earlier disclosed that the police had taken the suspects to court on Thursday and Friday last week for arraignment, only to learn that the court officials were on a scheduled official visit prisons, which warranted a shift to today.
The suspects were said to have stolen the money from the bundles of cash reportedly carried by the Akwa Ibom State government team on their way back from Lagos where Governor Godswill Akpabio was awarded the ‘Sun Newspapers Man of the Year’ two weeks ago.
The protocol team travelled ahead of the governor who later returned to the state in a chartered jet.
The money was recovered concealed in an abandoned luggage later found to belong to the prime suspect, who was promptly whisked away for questioning and later detained.
The move by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce the cashless economy policy was informed by the penchant of Nigerians, particularly top government officials, who are in the habit of traveling around with large sacks of money in cash.