Court remands PDP ex-boss Haliru Bello, son over alleged N300m fraud

Former Acting Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Customs ex-boss, Dr. Mohammed Haliru Bello at the Federal High Court, Abuja ... yesterday.                    Photo Ladidi Lucy Elukpo
Former Acting Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Customs ex-boss, Dr. Mohammed Haliru Bello at the Federal High Court, Abuja … yesterday. Photo Ladidi Lucy Elukpo
• EFCC arrests Olisa Metuh
• Party protests, alleges death plot
AS the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) intensified its investigations into the alleged misappropriation of government’s funds, it arraigned former ‎National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Haliru Bello‎ and his son, Abba at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, yesterday.
The former PDP chief who came in a wheelchair and his son entered “a not guilty” plea on a four-count criminal charge, bordering on alleged N300million fraud. Two firms, BAM Projects and Properties Limited were charged along with the duo.
Also, the EFCC yesterday morning arrested the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh at his Abuja residence at ‎No 14, Drive 1, Prince and Princess Estate.
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the PDP has demanded Metuh’s immediate release.
A statement issued by the party’s national secretary, Prof. Adewale Oladipo‎, yesterday evening also alleged that it was aware of plans to kill Metuh while in detention.
According to the amended charge dated December 30, 2015 preferred against the accused persons by EFCC, Bello and his son, Abba, are alleged to have conspired by using the firms to withdraw N300 million from an account of the ‎Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Upon the duo entering their plea, the counsel for EFCC, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, immediately prayed the court to remand them in prison custody pending trial.
But that request by EFCC’s counsel was opposed by defence counsel, O. Osoka and Abdulaziz Ibrahim who drew the attention of the court to a motion for bail on behalf of their clients’ pursuant to sections 162, 165 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, as well as sections 35 and 36(5) (6) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The court stood down the matter for 30 minutes and when it resumed agreed to hear the bail requests. After hearing the application for bail, the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed tomorrow to rule and consequently ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to ensure a security tab was kept on the wheelchair-bound former party boss.
Bello’s counsel, Ibrahim‎ prayed the court to grant him bail on self –recognition as his client had a spinal cord surgery in the United Kingdom and was still convalescing.
“The third defendant is over 70 years old, an elder statesman who has served this country meritoriously in various capacities. My lord, he is not only a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but also the former chairman of one of the biggest political parties in Africa. We pray this court to grant him bail on self-recognition, or in the alternative, grant him bail on the most liberal terms. He has responsible persons that are ready to stand surety ‎for him”, Bello’s lawyer submitted.
Olisa Metuh, National Publicity Secretary of the People's Democratic Party.
Olisa Metuh, National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party.
Abba’s counsel, Osoka, also prayed the court to grant his client bail on health grounds. But the EFCC in two separate counter-affidavits deposed to by one of its detectives, Mohammed Goji, vehemently opposed the release of the accused persons on bail.
EFCC lawyer, Mr. Aliyu S. Yusuf, argued that the accused persons did not place sufficient evidence to warrant the court to exercise its discretion in their favour.
The prosecution urged the court to consider the severity of the charge which it said would attract a maximum of 14 years imprisonment, and the proof of evidence against the accused persons and deny them bail.
It argued that neither Bello nor his son adduced any evidence to show that they would not get proper medical attention from the prison hospital. The EFCC maintained that the accused persons, if released, had the capacity to interfere with the course of justice.
“On the whole, we urge my lord to refuse the bail application and order accelerated hearing of this case,” Yusuf added.
After listening to their submissions for and against, Justice Mohammed ‎held that since it was evident that Bello was brought to court from his hospital bed, “he Bello is hereby put under the supervision of the inspector general of police pending the determination of his bail application.”
The judge was not so magnanimous to Bello’s son, Abba, however, as he remanded him in Kuje Prison.
One of the charges against them read: “‎That you Bello Abba Mohammed, BAM Projects and Properties Ltd and Dr. Haliru Bello on or about 17th March 2015 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court took possession of the sum of N300million paid into the account of BAM Projects and Properties Limited with Sterling Bank Plc from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser with the CBN when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the then National Security Adviser ( to wit: criminal breach of trust and corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section (15) (3) of the same Act.”
Confirming Metuh’s arrest, his Special Assistant, Richard Ihediwa, in a statement sent to journalists yesterday, said:‎”Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrived at the Abuja home of the spokesman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, this morning, inviting him to follow them to the commission’s headquarters. Upon enquiry on the reasons for the invitation, the officials stated that he has some issues to clear with the commission.

As at the time of issuing this statement, Chief Metuh is still being kept at the commission’s headquarters and his lawyers were making frantic efforts to reach him.”
Oladipo’s statement alleged that the arrest and detention of Metuh was part of the grand design to clip the wings of the opposition and create an opportunity for the enthronement of a one-party state in the country.
The PDP said: “For whatever reason Chief Metuh was arrested, his rights as a citizen under the law must not be trampled upon. We therefore demand his immediate release and that due process of investigation and prosecution concerning him should be strictly adhered to. We state this because we have been made aware of top directives to break Chief Metuh and if possible poison him during his detention by the EFCC.
“Chief Metuh, has since his arrest about 10:00 a.m., been kept
incommunicado, with his lawyers denied access to him.
“The PDP declares the arrest of our spokesman as the last straw that may break our democracy. We therefore forewarn the Federal Government and its agencies to save our democracy and forthwith release our National Publicity Secretary.”

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