By Moji Eniola
Ikeja – Lagos socialite Fred Ajudua was re-arraigned at an Ikeja High Court on Tuesday for allegedly defrauding a former Chief of Army Staff, retired Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi of $10.3 million.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ajudua plead not guilty to a 28-count charge bordering on conspiracy to obtain money by false pretence.
The charges were brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ajudua, was arraigned after Justice Josephine Oyefeso had in a ruling dismissed his application dated Jan. 6, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to try him.
“The fact that the defendant’s statement is not in the proof of evidence is not relevant to the issue of the jurisdiction of this court.
“The EFCC can prosecute any financial crime in any court in Nigeria in accordance with Section 211 (1)(b) of the constitution.
“The statement that the defendant has no case is premature and I, therefore, order that the defendant answers to his charges and be arraigned,” Oyefeso ruled.
The lead Prosecutor to the EFCC, Mr S.A. Atteh, said that Ajudua committed the alleged conspiracy and fraud from Nov. 20, 2004 to Dec.18, 2005 alongside five accomplices.
The accomplices were named as Oluronke Rosulu, Alumile Adedeji also known as Ade Bendel, one Kenneth, one Jonathan and Hamabon William.
NAN reports that Ajudua and Rosulu were initially arraigned in 2014 by the EFCC before Justice Kudirat Jose on charges relating to the fraud.
Rosulu, a high court Registrar, who allegedly assisted Ajudua to funnel the funds from the Kirikiri Prisons, however, opted for a separate trial before a different judge.
She was tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud on Dec. 21, 2015 by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, while the hearing of Ajudua’s case was transferred to Oyefeso’s court, where he was re-arraigned on the charges during Tuesday’s proceedings.
The other accomplices to Ajudua, however, remain at large.
The EFCC had posited that Ajudua, who was in custody at the Kirikiri Prisons for a fraud related offence, had approached Bamaiyi, who was facing trial for the attempted murder of Mr Alex Ibru, the late publisher of the Guardian Newspapers.
Ajudua had allegedly convinced Bamayi that he could help to secure his freedom and secure legal services on his behalf.
“Ajudua received 10.3 million dollars as well as N2 million from Bamaiyi on 23 occasions under the guise that the money was the legal fees for the law firm of Chief Afe Babalola and Co which was false,” Atteh said.
The anti-graft agency said that the money, ranging from $3,500 to $1.5 million, was given to Ajudua and his accomplices on Bamaiyi’s behalf through ASP. Abdullahi Garba, a prison officer, Mr Garba Tagda, Mr Danladi Yaro, Lt.-Col. Timothy Chechet and Mrs Martha Bamaiyi.
The offences violated Sections 1 (3) and 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act.
After Ajudua’s plea was taken, Atteh requested that he should be remanded in prison.
“In view of the plea of the defendant, we shall be asking for a trial date and we request that the defendant be remanded in prison custody,” the prosecutor said.
Ajudua’s Counsel, Mr Norrison Quakers (SAN), however, objected to the prosecution’s request for remand.
“In view of the arraignment of the defendant, we ask that the defendant be granted bail.
“The defendant has always been physically present in court, despite his health challenges and he sometimes gets to court at 8 a.m. or 8.15 a.m. before his lawyers.
“He has shown commitment to this trial. I ask that the bail granted to the defendant by the Court of Appeal should continue,” Quakers said.
Justice Oyefeso acceded to Norrison’s request and granted bail to Ajudua on the subsisting bail conditions granted to him by the Court of Appeal.
“The essence of granting bail is to ensure the attendance of the defendant and Section 115 (2)(3) or the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) states that it is discretionary.
“The Court of Appeal granted bail to the defendant on Nov. 14, 2014. The defendant has faithfully attended trial and I hereby grant bail to the defendant,” Oyefeso said.
The case was adjourned until July 12 and July 13 for hearing of pending applications.