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TWO weeks after the Supreme Court absolved him of complicity in the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Mohammed, eldest surviving son of the late General Sani Abacha, was on Wednesday granted bail by an Abuja High Court which is tryig him on a 111-count charge of theft and receiving stolen goods.
Overruling the Federal Government’s objection to Mohammed’s application for bail, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Mohammed Saleh, granted him bail in the sum of N10 million with two sureties who must also own landed property worth N10 million each.
Saleh directed that Mohammed should be kept under surveillance in order not to abscond, while his passport, which is already with the government should be retained.
Mohammed was, however, rearrested on leaving the courtroom by a detachment of policemen led by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Operations, at the Force Headquarters, Sunday Omoidedia.
No reason as given for the rearrest, but Mohammed, in a chat with reporters before he was taken away, said the bail conditions had not been fully met and that it was likely he would be released today.
Saleh held that the prosecution had jailed to show reasons why Mohammed should not be granted bail, since its objection was based on the grounds that if granted bail, he would prejudice investigations, would jump bail and that he was hale and hearty.
Said he, “the accused person is standing trial on charges of theft, receiving stole property and conspiracy, and he had in his application for bail stated that he would not jump bail, would not commit similar offence and would not prejudice investigation”.
“I agree with learned senior advocate of Nigeria counsel to the applicant that the accused person would not prejudice investigations as it has been concluded and concerning the looted monies, it has been frozen and can only be touched on the orders of a court of law”, he added.
According to him “an applicant for bail does not need to be on the verge of death before he can apply for bail as nothing stops a hale and hearty accused person from applying for bail”.
“All the accused needs to do is to give an undertaken not to jump bail, present himself in court to face his trial. The prosecution has failed to produce material to show why the accused person should be refused bail” he stated.
Saleh directed that Mohammed should be kept under surveillance by security agents but warned against keeping him in custody. He adjourned further hearing into the matter sine die (indefinitely)
Earlier counsel to Mohammed, Mr. A.B. Mohmoud (SAN), leading Mr. Yunus Usman (SAN) and eight others, had argued that the court had the discretion to grant his client bail once the provisions of section 341 of the criminal procedure code had been met.
Said he “the accused person is standing trial on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy. Your lordship has the discretion to grant him bail as long as he puts before the court the requirement for bail.
“In paragraph 2 of the affidavit, the applicant states that he has become the head if his family since he death of his father in June, 1998, these are the jaets upon which the applicant is seeking your discretion to grant him bail, the onus on the applicant, is to place the materials necessary for his bail before your lordship” he contended.
Mahmoud stated that once these materials have been placed before the court the burden then falls on the prosecution to show cause why bail should not be granted citing the decision of the Appeal Court in the case of Abiola versus Federal government 1995, INWLR part 370 pages, 55 at page 179, Chief Anthony Emeka Ani versus state 2001, FWLR page 175 at page 1722 to 1723 he maintained that the burden on the applicant is not an onerous one.
He submitted that once the conditions for bail has been satisfied by the applicant, the court has to consider the following; the nature of the charge, what is the penalty, what is the weight of evidence against him, whether he could commit such an offence again, he cited the case of Dantata versus commissions of police, Northern Region law Report, page 3, Eyu versus state 1988 2 NWLR part 78 page 63, Emordi versu commissioner of police 1995, 2NWL part 376 page 244 to back his arguments.
The senior Advocate of Nigeria submitted that “there is ample justification for the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the applicant. On the complaint that he would interfere with investigations, investigation into the matter has been concluded and charges are also before the court, there is no proof that the applicant would interfere with the investigation.