- A Nigerian court has ruled out a bail application for the former Chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Olabode George.
The Ikeja High Court yesterday in Lagos dismissed an application for bail filed by Mr George and five others convicted on 26 October. They were jailed two years each without any option of fine for contract splitting, abuse of office and disobeying lawful authority while serving on the board of NPA.
The convicts presently serving their jail terms at Kirikiri Maximum Prisons had on 30 October filed an application for bail, pending appeal, on health grounds and congestion, at the Court of Appeal, which they argued could delay hearing of their appeal.
Justice Olubunmi Oyewole said there was no sufficient ground before the court to admit Mr George and others to bail on medical grounds. “There must be sufficient evidence from a specialist in that particular field of medicine to grant bail on medical grounds,’’ Mr Oyewole said.
Mr George and five other co-accused, who were members of the 2001/2003 Ports Authority Board, were found guilty and convicted on numerous charges including conspiracy, disobedience of lawful orders, inflation of contracts and abuse of office by splitting contracts.
Public officials are banned from awarding contracts of more than a 130,000 naira (US$853) without approval. Splitting the contract into parts, to award a far larger sum of money, is also breaking the law.
The trial, which initially involved five accused persons, started on 15 August, 2008, when Mr George and five others were arraigned before Justice Oyewole on a 163-count charge of conspiracy, disobedience to lawful order, inflation of contracts and contracts splitting. However the charges were later dropped to 63 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is prosecuting the case.
The jailing of Mr George and five others was a major breakthrough in the trial, which lasted 15 months, and in the fight against graft but a major setback for the flamboyant PDP chieftain. Mr George and other accused persons were arraigned last year by EFCC on a 68-count charge bordering on N85 billion fraud at the NPA.
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