The Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday admitted the former Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Emeka Mba, and three others to bail in the sum of N50 million each.
Mba alongside the Director of Finance and Accounts, Patrick Areh; Basil Udotai; and Babatunji Amure were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on a 15-count amended charge bordering on money laundering.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charges and the prosecuting counsel, Ben Ikani, said that in the light of the plea, he was ready to commence trial.
Counsel to Mba, Sunday Ameh (SAN), said the defence team was equally ready for trial, adding that in the interim, he had filed an application for bail for his client.
Counsel to Areh, I.F. Chude, and Counsel to Udotai, Ogbu Onoja, prayed the court to allow their clients continue on bail based on the terms of the administrative bail that was earlier granted them by the EFCC.
Justice Gabriel Kolawale said he was not ready to take arguments for bail and asked both the prosecution and the defence counsels to agree on the bail terms and communicate same to him.
Kolawale said based on their agreement, he was admitting the defendants to bail on the conditions of their previous bail in addition to a N50 million fee for each of the defendant.
He said that Mba was to continue with the two directors who took him on administrative bail, just as Areh was to continue with the two sureties that took him on bail at the FCT High Court.
He also ruled that Udotai would continue with the two Federal Civil Servants of level 14, while Amure would also continue with the assistant director, who took him on bail at the EFCC.
The defendants are to deposit their international passport with the court and where they fail to perfect their bail conditions within 14 days, they would be taken back to EFCC custody and remanded in prison until the conditions are perfected.
Kolawale said that the addition of N50 million to the bail conditions was to allay the fears the prosecutor had raised that the administrative bail granted by the EFCC did not involve landed property.
Ikani had argued that in light of the huge sum of money involved, landed property should be considered as part of their bail condition so that in case they jumped bail, the state would be adequately protected.
Mba and the three others are standing trial for allegedly diverting the sum of N2.9 billion belonging to the NBC for personal use.
One of the charge reads: “That you Emeka Mba (while being the Director- General of the National Broadcasting Commission), Patrick Areh while being the Director Finance and Account of the National Broadcasting Commission, Basil Udotai (trading in the name and style of technology advisor).
“Babatunji Amure (trading on the name and style of Divine partners on or about the 15th day of August 2015 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit an illegal act to wit laundering the sum of N2, 899,723,500.00 contrary to section 18 (a) of the money laundering prohibition act 2011 as amended and punishable under section 16(3) of the same Act.”