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Itse Sagay frowns at court ruling granting former CDS, Badeh leave to visit family abroad

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ITSE Sagay, a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has frowned at a ruling by the Federal High Court, Abuja, granting Alex Badeh, former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) permission to travel abroad to visit his family and friends.

Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) told the ICIR in a telephone interview that there is no provision of law that supports the release of somebody on trial to embark on leisure travels.

The Punch had reported that the unusual permission was granted by Justice Okon Abang on Wednesday following an application by Badeh’s counsel, Akin Olujimi (SAN).

Badeh is standing a 14-count corruption trial to which he had pleaded “not guilty”. He is accused of abusing his office as the CDS by diverting N3.97 billion which was meant for the purchase of arms to boost the anti-insurgency operations.

He was first arraigned in court in March 2016 and after his “not guilty” plea, was briefly remanded in Kuje Prison. He was eventually granted a N2 billion bail on March 10, with two sureties who were expected to deposit N1 billion each.

Following his application to be allowed to travel abroad, Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the EFCC, did not oppose the application, but raised reservations as to why the accused person would be allowed to travel since he was not ill.

Justice Abang, in his ruling, gave approval for Badeh to travel, but ordered that one of his sureties must sign an undertaking that he would return to face his trial. The surety must deposit his international passport with the court until when Badeh returns to continue with his trial.

Prof. Itse Sagay
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When the ICIR contacted Professor Sagay on Thursday, he said he read the report in the papers and “was taken aback”.

“There is no provision whatsoever to release somebody on trial to go for a visit to relations and so on. It’s a serious matter. I don’t know where that is coming from,” Sagay said.

“Generally this granting of people on trial leave to go abroad is just getting too much. It’s like some sort of infection that is spreading all over the judiciary.

“You’re supposed to complete the trial as soon as possible, the rules are very strict. The law requires that the trial has to be from day to day, and that any adjournment, where it is absolutely necessary – because we are human beings and can have situations which is outside our control – should not be more than 14 days.

“So this whole thing… Well, you know, one is not informed about the details of this but from what I read in the newspaper, I was aghast. It looks very very surprising to me.”

Okon Abang is also the Judge hearing the case of Olisa Metuh, former spokesperson of the PDP, and, on several occasions, had rejected Metuh’s application to travel to the UK for medical treatment.

In fact, Metuh has had to be brought to court in an ambulance of the National Hospital, Abuja, and was wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, after Justice Abang threatened to revoke his bail if he fails to attend his trial.

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This is in spite of several doctor’s reports from local and international hospitals affirming that Metuh has a severe spinal cord condition and requires urgent medical attention.

When the ICIR brought this to Sagay’s attention, he said he would not comment on whether Justice Abang was being biased in his decisions.

“I don’t want to go that route, bias and so on, that’s a very serious charge, I won’t go there,” he said. “But certainly, from objective observation, the Metuh case seems far more serious than someone who wants to go and spend time enjoying with his family, some of whom are, in fact, wanted, to my knowledge.

“So, I don’t understand the whole thing. We will just have to leave it like that until the real theses and explanation begins to unfold.”

On whether the issue can be taken up by the National Judicial Council (NJC), Sagay said it is left for Rotimi Jacobs, the prosecution lawyer, to file a complaint if he felt aggrieved.

“Rotimi Jacobs is the prosecutor in this case. That is in his court, if there is anything untoward, certainly he will be the one, himself and the EFCC will be the aggrieved parties who can then lodge a petition if the need arises. We just have to wait and see that happens.”

However, when contacted by the ICIR, Rotimi Jacobs said there was nothing strange with the ruling, adding that the Judge was at liberty to grant any application based on evidences available to him.

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Besides, Rotimi added that Badeh has been diligent all through the trial and has fully cooperated with the court.

“It is at the discretion of the court. What is important is whether he will come back. So, I don’t see anything unusual there,” Rotimi told the ICIR during a phone conversation.

“If somebody has a disposition to jump bail, then the court may not grant it. But the court found that he has no disposition to jump bail, he has been coming regularly, he has not delayed the trial in any way, so those findings are not my findings, they are the findings of the judge.

“The court believe that he will be back, and (has) asked his surety to deposit his international passport with the court and give a written undertaken that he will come back also. I don’t see anything strange there.”

“This man has never, for one day, failed to attend court. There’s never a day that he came to court and asked for an adjournment that he is not prepared for. He has shown total cooperation with the court. A person like that, are you saying the judge is wrong in granting the application?

“And myself, for those who will not run away, I don’t believe in giving serious opposition to that kind of person, because what is the essence of granting you bail if you don’t have access to travel on holidays for medical something?

“What is important is that, is he coming back? Once there is evidence that he is coming back, I don’t see anything unusual there.”

Meanwhile, Nigerians have been reacting to the ruling on twitter. Many have expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling.

 

Omojuwa later corrected that “Amosu was the one that returned money not Badeh.”

 

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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