After forcing the court to adjourn twice due to his absence, oil magnate Walter Wagbatsoma, a suspect in the oil subsidy fraud, got a stiff bail condition on Wednesday, as Habeeb Abiru, Judge of the Lagos High court, Ikeja, slammed a N450 million bail sum on him.
Mr. Wagbatsoma, who allegedly fled to the US to avoid trial, is also expected to, among other conditions, provide three sureties; two of whom must be resident in Lagos where they should also have landed property.
In granting bail to Mr. Wagbatsoma and those docked along with him – Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Ebenezer, and Ezekiel Ejidele- Mr. Abiru said that the prosecution’s arguments were not enough to deny them bail.
Earlier, Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told the court that Mr. Wagbatsoma had been evading arrest.
“In the letter dated 16th July, I referred to an earlier letter dated 20th January 2012 where we asked the above person to personally report to our office,” he said.
Mr. Jacobs said that the anti-graft agency received a reply two days later informing them that Mr. Walter was “currently out of the country on annual medical check-up.”
“The same Walter travelled out of the country, first on 17th June and returned on 3rd July.
“Then on the 20th, the very day we filed this information, he took off. He left Abuja for France by 9p.m. But as at the time they were writing on the 18th, he was still in the country,” Mr. Jacobs said.
“These are signs that he has been evading arrest. Even up till now, we are unable to obtain his statement,” he added.
Babajide Koku, counsel to Mr. Wagbatsoma, insisted that his client was not evading arrest.
“There was an invitation from the EFCC to appear on the 24th,” Mr. Koku said.
“A letter was written to the EFCC saying that it was impossible to appear that day; which he had appeared today,” the defense lawyer stated. “At the last appearance, we undertook that he’d be here today,”
Just a PPPRA staff
Counsel to Mr. Fakuade, the third defendant, pleaded with the judge to grant his client bail as he is “a mere supervisor” at the Pipelines and Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
“A supervisor is not such an influential person as said by the prosecution. Bear in mind that he was only charged with four out of the nine charges,” the lawyer said.
In his ruling, Mr. Abiru granted bail to Ms. Ugo-Ngadi in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum, one of which must have a landed property in Lagos.
Both Messrs. Fakuade and Ezekiel got a N10 million bail, also with two sureties.
All the defendants are to deposit their international passport with the EFCC.
Bail to Alao’s son
In an earlier hearing, Mr. Abiru also granted bail to Abdullahi Alao, son of businessman Arisekola Alao, and a suspect in the oil subsidy fraud.
The judge granted the defendant bail in the sum of N100 million and two sureties in like sum. The sureties must have landed properties in Lagos State, among other conditions.
Mr. Alao, who is also expected to submit his international passport and travel documents, would be remanded in the custody of the EFCC pending trial.
Mr. Abiru fixed October 22, 30, 31, and November 1 for commencement of trial.