A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday struck out an application for bail by the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas, Ifeanyi Uba, and four of the company’s employees from the custody of the Special Fraud Unit of the police in Lagos State.
Justice Okon Abang struck out the application due to non-disclosure of material facts and that bail cannot be granted under a fundamental human rights procedure rules adopted in filing the suit.
The application was struck even as counsel for the applicants, Dr. Joseph Nwobike, SAN, told the court that the applicants had already been granted administrative by the SFU bail on October 19.
In striking out the application, Abang said Nwobike failed to disclose to the court that his clients were being remanded by a valid order of a magistrate’s court.
He said the revelation that the police kept the applicants in their custody on the order of the magistrate’s court was contrary to Nwobike’s claim that the police violated their rights by keeping them in detention since their arrest on October 9.
He therefore said the application was “incompetent, defective and so, incurable by amendment”. The police accused Uba and the other suspects of defrauding the Federal Government of about N43bn under the fuel subsidy scheme.
They, on October 11, obtained an order of a Tinubu Magistrate’s Court, Lagos which was presided over by Mr. Martins Owumi to remand the suspects for 14 days to enable it to complete the investigation of the alleged fraud.
In line with Owumi’s advice, Nwobike filed a bail application before the magistrate’s court but also filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit before the Federal High Court alleging an unlawful detention of his clients by the police.
But Abang in his ruling on Monday, said, “I have gone through the affidavit filed by the applicant counsel, and I find no place where it is stated that the there was a subsisting order for remand by the magistrate court. “I cannot possibly comprehend why the learned SAN has chosen to hide this fact from the court.”
He said though, the applicants were entitled to file a bail application, they could not do so under the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
He said, “Where bail is refused an applicant at the magistrates’ court, he has the right to bring his application before a higher court, but he has to do so within the confines of the law.
“I cannot make findings on the bail application of the applicants, brought pursuant to the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
“The applicants cannot use this rule to challenge a subsisting order of court. Whether the magistrate had or exceeded its jurisdiction, is entirely a different issue.”
Meanwhile, in opposing the application, SFU deposed to an affidavit in which it alleged that the amount involved in the fraud the suspects were being investigated for could conveniently pay the monthly allocation of 11 states of the federation.
The SFU, in a counter-affidavit, stated that apart from the N43bn alleged fraud, Uba was also being investigation in respect of another for fraudulent transactions, money laundering, forgery of shipping documents and stealing by conversion of petroleum product worth about $280m.
Others who are being investigated along with Uba for the alleged fraud, are Nsika Usoro, Godfrey Okorie, Chibuzor Ogbuokiri, and Joseph Orji.