Former Governor of Delta State , Chief James Onanefe Ibori on Monday lost his bid to regain his freedom as the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna refused his bail application.
Presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu, who gave his ruling in an oral application for bail brought by Ibori’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN), ordered that the former governor and his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo be remanded in prison custody until January 11, next year when their trial is expected to begin. Shocked by the ruling, Udoamaka broke down in tears and intermittently, mopped her eyes with a white handkerchief.
Justice Shuaibu also ordered that the case be given accelerated hearing.
The accused persons were last Thursday arraigned before Justice Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Kaduna by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) on a 103-count charge of money laundering.
In his review of the oral application for bail, the judge said it was predicated on section 118(2) (3) of the Criminal Procedures Act, adding that the main points for consideration were the nature of offence, strength of evidences, likelihood of delay in trial, and whether the accused person would jump bail.
He said that while the first accused person was charged with 103 bailable offences, the second accused person (Ms Okoronkwo) was charged with six offences.
According to Justice Shuaibu, the law allows for oral application and that proof of evidence would not add or subtract from the chances of success of bail applications just as facts and circumstances of each case were not the same.
To buttress his point, he cited Danbaba vs State 2000, 14 NWLR, Abiola vs Federal Republic of Nigeria (supra) and Olatunji vs the Federal Government 2003, 3NWLR part 807 particularly at page 406 and said that the issue of granting bail is not only discretional, but must be judicial and judicious.
Ruling on the bail application, Justice Shuaibu said availability of the accused person standing trial is a fundamental point for consideration before such accused can be granted bail.
He said: “Availability of the accused to stand trial has always been an important factor to be considered by the court.
“It is my view that same is a statement of fact which shall ordinarily be made by way of deposition in an affidavit; like wise the requirement of reliable surety.
“In the unlikely event the court, the court is not likely to grant bail. In the light of the above, and considering the circumstances of this case, the accused applicants have not placed before the court sufficient materials with which the court will exercise its favourable discretion in granting the bail.
“The oral application for bail in respect of the first and second accused (James Onanefe Ibori and Udoamaka Okoronkwo respectively) is hereby refused and in the circumstance an accelerated trail in the case is hereby ordered.”
Both counsel expressed satisfaction with the ruling of the presiding Judge.
Those who attended the court session from Delta State were Uzzi PD Oboh (JP) Iyasere of Oghara Kingdom, Chief William Ibori (JP), Unugborogodo of Oghara Kingdom, Chief AD Tietie (JP), Chief JJ Ojo, a chief in Oghara Kingdom; Chief Femi Agbokoko, Chief Robert Eyaufe, Chief I. Amori (JP) Otota of Mosogar Kingdom, Chief Ambassador Ray Inifie (former Deputy Governor of old Bendel state).
Others are Hon Ben Bakpa and Hon. Igbuya both of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Champion Kpateghe, Hon. Austin Ayimidejor, Hon. Emmanuel Ighomena, Chief Ako (JP), Owelle of Oghara, Dr. Henry Ofa and Chief I Udju all members of the Delta state Executive Council.
Following the court’s ruling, Ibori was moved to the Kaduna Central Prison. On arrival at the prison, the former governor’s first request was for his pair of glasses and a copy of the Holy Bible.
His first guest at the Kaduna Prison, now renamed Kaduna Convicts Prison, was former chairman of the Board of Trustes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih.
Others, who visited Ibori were Hon. Mercy Alumna-Isie of the House of Representative, a serving senator from Delta State, some members of the Delta State House of Assembly and about six commissioners in the cabinet of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.