A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in Abuja, on Thursday, granted bail to former Air Officer in Charge of Tactical Air command, Makurdi, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Rufus Ojuawo, in the sum of N10 million and a surety in the like sum.
The surety, according to Justice Mahawayi Baba Idris, must be a civil servant not below the rank of an Assistant Director.
Marshal Ojuawo was arraigned on a two-count charge of allegedly receiving a gift of N40 million and a car valued at N29.2m from a contractor, with the Nigerian Airforce (NAF), Mr. Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux Nig. Ltd.
When the charges were read to him by a clerk of the court, the defendant pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
At this stage, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Francis Jirbo, requested for an adjournment to enable him open his case.
He also asked the court to remand the defendant in prison custody.
However, counsel to the defendant, Mr. Robert Ajabo in opposing the oral application, moved a motion for the release of his client on bail pending trial.
He argued that the alleged offence upon which the defendant was charged is bailable in nature.
He cited relevant case laws including Mamam v state (2012) A FWLR; Suleiman V C.O.P Plateau State and section 16 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, in persuading the court to admit his client to bail.
Ajabo further argued that relevant and sufficient materials have been placed before the court to enable it exercise it’s discretion in favour of the defendant and to grant him bail on liberal terms.
He added that as a serving General in the military, the defendant would not jump bail but be available to face his trial.
But in opposition to the bail application, prosecution counsel, Jirbo urged the court to refused the application and send the defendant to prison custody to serve as a deterrent to others.
He argued that in view of the gravity of the offence which carries a jail term of five years upon conviction, the defendant would evade justice.
Jirbo further urged the court to hold that there were no sufficient materials placed before the court to enable it to admit the defendant to bail.
He cited the cases of Bamaiyi v the state (2001); Musa V C.O.P (2004) in urging the court to refuse the application.
In his ruling, Justice Idris overruled the submissions of the prosecution counsel and admitted the defendant to bail.
The Judge held that the alleged offences brought against the applicant are such that bail cannot be denied him.
Besides, he held that by the constitutional provisions of section 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution, the accused person is deemed innocent until it is proven otherwise.
Justice Idris said the provisions of section 158 of ACJA 2015 also empowers the court to grant bail to the applicant as the offence did not fall within the contemplation of section 162 of the Act.
Until his arrest by the EFCC on February 7, 2016, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, AVM Ojuawo was carrying out his duties as the Air officer Commanding the tactical Air Command, Nigerian Air Force, Makurdi.He was picked while on his way to Stuttgart, Germany, on national assignment as a member of the Armed Forces delegation to United State African Command [USAFRICOM], where he was scheduled to deliver a keynote address on issues bordering on the speedy conclusion of the fight against the Boko Haram Insurgency.
The charges reads;
“That you, AVM Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo while serving as Director of Operations, Nigerian Airforce(NAF), in March 2015 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court, did accepted a gift in the aggregate of N40m from one Mr. Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux Nig. Ltd, a contractor with NAF in performance of your official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, and punishable under section 17 (c) of the same Act.
That you, AVM Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo while serving as Director of Operations, Nigerian Airforce(NAF), sometimes in 2015 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court, did accepted a gift of a vehicle (Range Rover Sport Supercharged) valued at N29.2m from one Mr. Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux Nig. Ltd, a contractor with NAF via Coscharis Motors Ltd, in performance of your official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, and punishable under section 17 (c) of the same Act.