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» 10.11.2009 - Former NPA chief denied bail

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Appeals court rejects bail application for former ports chief

afrol News, 18 December - Nigeria’s Appeals Court has dismissed the bail application of the former chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority, Chief Olabode George, and five others convicted in October over contract splitting, abuse of office and disobedience of lawful order.

The court ruling delivered by Justice Manika Dongba Menson said it rejected the bail application brought by the accused saying the appeal lack merits.

The convicts presently serving their jail terms at Kirikiri Maximum Prisons had on 30 October filed an application for bail, pending appeal, in the Lagos High Court on health grounds and congestion.

The former chief of NPA and five former members of the NPA board were found guilty in some of the charges leveled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over their activities while at the helm of affairs of the ports authority.

In its ruling, the court held that there were no sufficient grounds before it to grant the convicted persons bail on issues presented by their lawyers.

On the issue of congestion and the likelihood of delay in determination of the appeal, Justice Dongban-Mensem held that there were many cases filed in the court daily, adding that they had to be attended to as they become due in accordance with their peculiar exigencies.

On the second ground given by the applicants and supported by medical reports saying that all the six convicts were ill, the Judge dismissed it stressing that there was no enough evidence before the court that their ailments could cause health hazard in the prison.

In Nigeria, 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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