Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Intergovernmental Affairs, Mrs. Mariam Ali, has volunteered to be the bail surety for one of the suspects of fuel subsidy fraud, Christian Taylor.
Taylor was on July 26 arraigned along with Mahman Ali, who is son of Mariam and a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ahmadu Ali.
Counsel for Taylor, Mr. Kolade Obafemi, said Mariam had “prepared” to be the surety for the accused.
Taylor, who his lawyer said was a Sierra Leonean, was on July 26 arraigned before the court and granted bail on the condition that one of his sureties must be his blood relation who was resident in Lagos.
But the defence urged the court to vary the condition on the grounds that it would be difficult for him to secure a blood relation that was resident in Lagos as his surety.
Obafemi urged the court to accept Mariam, being “a responsible Nigerian instead of Taylor’s blood relation”, as the surety.
“The proposed surety, Dr. Mariam Ali is a responsible Nigerian. She is the Special Assistant to the President on Intergovernmental Affairs,” he said.
The judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, however, despite opposition to the application for bail condition variation, accepted the defendant’s proposition of Mariam as a surety.
EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, had opposed the proposition on the grounds that Mariam had not made any deposition before the court and that the accused was trying to misrepresent the fact of his nationality.
He alleged that Taylor had in a written statement claimed to have hailed from Okpe Local Giverment Area of Edo State and that he had stated in his asset declaration form that his father, too, was from the state.
The judge, however overruled Jacobs, saying, “the essence of granting the bail was to ensure that the accused attended trial.”
Taylor and Ali along with their company, Nasaman Oil Services were arraigned on July 26 before Onigbanjo on three counts among which was fraudulent collection of about N2.23bn from the Federal Government in the name of subsidy for importing various litres of PMS.
Date for commencement of trial had been fixed for October 30.
Meanwhile, Abdulahi, son of Ibadan-based politician, Arisekola Alao, was again on Wednesday granted bail by Justice Habeeb Abiru of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja in a charge involving fraud in subsidy payments.
This came even as the EFCC also arraigned Walter Wagbastoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi, Ezekiel Ejidele, along with Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited before the same court for similar offences.
They were granted bail, shortly after the accused pleaded not guilty to all the nine counts contained in their charge.
The counts include obtaining about N1.6bn from the Federal Government under false pretence by purporting the money to be payment for subsidy on certain litres of fuel which they allegedly failed to supply.
Abiru granted bail to Alao, who was on July 26, arraigned along with his company, Axenergy Limited, on seven counts of obtaining about N1.5bn from the Federal Government purportedly as subsidy payment for certain litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Alao faces separate charge along with Mahmud Tukur, son of the incumbent national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Bamanga Tukur, Alex Ochonogo and Eterna Oil and Gas Limited, before Onigbanjo.
They were all granted bail on July 26 after their arraignment.
Their trial will commence on October 24.
ADE ADESOMOJU | PUNCH
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