The police on Friday arraigned Osakwe Azubuike for allegedly defaming Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation.
Mr Azubuike was arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court in Karu, Abuja.
The police earlier on November 5, arraigned Mr Fani-Kayode’s estranged wife, Precious Chikwendu and her sister, Prisca, over allegations bordering on forgery of court documents, conspiracy and defamation.
Ms Chikwendu is also charged alongside one of Mr Fani-Kayode’s domestic workers, Emmanuel Anakan, and five others, in the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the police.
At Friday’s proceedings, Elizabeth Woni, Mr Azubuike who is the 4th defendant in the suit, pleaded not guilty after the charge was read to him before the court.
Arguments over bail application
In a tense court atmosphere, the prosecutor, John Ijagbemi, urged the court to set a date for trial while praying that Mr Azubuike be remanded in prison custody.
But lawyer to Mr Azubuike, Emeka Uchegbulam, countered the prosecution.
Citing section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015), the defence lawyer said Mr Azubuike was ready and willing to be present in court for his trial.
“My client was only informed by the police on the phone today (Friday) for his arraignment, and he immediately came to court,” Mr Uchegbulam told the court.
The lawyer further argued that his client had no criminal record, adding, “If granted bail, the defendant will not jump bail.”
“This court has the power to exercise its discretion for bail in favour of the defendant. We urge your Worship to grant the defendant bail in liberal terms,” Mr Uchegbulam prayed the court.
However, the police prosecutor, Mr Ijagbemi, expressed fears that the defendant (Mr Azubuike) might interfere with criminal justice system.
“Investigation into the matter is ongoing. Therefore, releasing 4th defendant might jeopardise the investigation as well as undermine the functioning of the entire criminal justice system process,” Mr Ijagbemi told the court.
“We urge the court to refuse the bail application,” the prosecutor said.
In a bench ruling, the magistrate held that the granting or denial of bail was at the discretion of the court.
Ms Woni, thereafter, admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N2 million.
“The defendant is admitted to bail in the sum of N2 million and a surety in like sum,” the magistrate held.
She further held that the surety must be resident in Abuja, with a verifiable means of livelihood.
The magistrate warned the police against what she termed “piecemeal arraignment of the defendants.”
“The prosecution should ensure that the three remaining defendants are brought to court for arraignment,” Ms Woni told Mr Ijagbemi.
According to the prosecution, “Anthonia Uchenna Oko Emmanuel and Daniel Gona are at large.”
The suit was adjourned till January 21, 2022 for mention and trial.
Ms Chikwendu and Mr Fani-Kayode have been locked in a legal battle over the custody of their four sons since they split last year.
She has levelled series of allegations against Mr Fani-Kayode in series of filings in the suit which she had instituted to obtain an order to compel her ex-husband to yield custody of their children to her.
Her lawyers alleged in one of her filings in her suit pending before the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, that Mr Fani-Kayode “beat her up on several occasions even while she was pregnant.”
In an aspect of the case pending at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, she accused Mr Fani-Kayode of lacking the capacity to look after the children, and expressed worries that the former minister was entrusting the boys in the care of nannies and his girlfriends.
She is demanding from Mr Fani-Kayode a monthly payment of N3.5 million for the upkeep of their four sons.
Mr Fani-Kayode has denied his ex-wife’s allegations.
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