From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Detained former air officer in charge of Tactical Air Command, Makurdi, Air Vice Marshal (AVM), Rufus Ojuawo, was, yesterday, granted bail in the sum of N10 million and a surety in the like sum by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The surety according to Justice Mahawai Baba Idris, must be a civil servant not below the rank of an Assistant Director.
Ojuawo was arraigned on a two-count charge of allegedly receiving a gift of N40 million and a car valued at N29.2 million from a contractor with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Mr. Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’ Equipments 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 an adjournment to enable him open his case and also asked the court to remand the defendant in prison custody.
However, counsel to the defendant, Mr. Robert Ajabo opposed the oral application and 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 had been placed before the court to enable it exercise discretion in favour of the defendant and 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.
The Judge held that the alleged offences brought against the applicant were such that bail could not 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 empowered the court to grant bail to the applicant as the offence did not fall within the contemplation of section 162 of the Act.
Ojuawo was picked while on his way to Stuttgart, Germany, on national assignment as a member of the Armed Forces delegation to United States 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.
Meanwhile, the trial has been adjourned to September 15, 2016.