An FCT High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja yesterday ordered the release of former president Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Mr. Azibaola Robert who has remained in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over a $40m pipeline contract awarded by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) under the leadership of retired colonel Sambo Dasuki.
Azibaola it was gathered, was arrested alongside his wife and executive director of projects of his firm, Mr. Dakoru Atukpa after he honoured an invitation from the anti graft agency two weeks ago.
The arrest of Robert, who is the Managing Director of Katakar Civil Engineering, has been described as a witch-hunt due to his relationship with the former president.
According to Punch, the arrest of Robert and Atukpa was sequel to a list sent to the EFCC by a committee set up by the Federal Government to probe contracts awarded by the ONSA from 2011 to 2015, which indicted more than 300 companies and prominent citizens, including serving and retired officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The report has it that the EFCC, on March 23, 2016, arrested Robert and Atukpa on the allegation of diversion of $40m public funds through Oneplus Holdings one of the 300 firms under investigation by the Federal Government, and a sister company of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Company Limited.
Responding to the witch-hunting allegations, spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren,said the arrest was not a wictch-hunt as the suspects allegedly received $40m from the ONSA for a dubious contract to supply “tactical equipment”.
“This is not a witch-hunt. He (Robert) is not Jonathan’s only cousin. The truth of the matter is that they are being held for a $40m contract he received from the ONSA. The mandate for the payment read, ‘Purchase of Tactical Equipment for Special Forces’.
“Two days after their arrest, they were offered bail. The condition was that the sureties must be on the level of civil service directors and a N250m bank guarantee. They must also have landed properties in Abuja and provide tax evidence of two years. But they could not meet up.
“So, the EFCC went to court for a remand order. They are being held pending the conclusion of investigation,” he said.
According to The Will, the suspects, who spoke through their lawyer, Gordy Uche SAN however, alleged that the real target was Jonathan, insisting that the contract was transparent.
He added that the Federal Government still owed his clients $4m as the balance of the contract sum for successfully securing oil pipelines, he requested the commission to either charge his clients to court or release them on bail.
Justice Olasunbo Goodluck yesterday ruled on Robert’s ex parte application and ordered that the bail should be guaranteed by two sureties. With each surety being a serving or retired Director in any of the government ministries of parastatal in Abuja, reports The Punch.
The judge held that the applicant had disclosed sufficient evidence before the court to warrant the grant of his relief adding that the bail granted the applicant was to subsist pending his arraignment by EFCC before any court or hearing of his substantive suit.
Azibaola was also ordered to deposit his international passport to the Chief Registrar of the court.
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