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Alleged Diversion Of Public Funds: Court Remands Ex-chairman NSITF, Ngozi Olejeme In EFCC Custody

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An FCT High Court sitting in Jabi on Thursday ordered that the former board chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Ngozi Olejeme, be remanded in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s ( EFCC) custody, until Friday.

The judge, Justice Maryam Hassan gave the order after listening to both counsel submissions on the defendant’s bail application.

She, therefore, directed that the defendant should be in the EFCC’s custody pending the ruling on the application for bail on Friday.

Olejeme is standing trial over an alleged case of criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, and money laundering.

The offense it was alleged she committed between 2012 and 2015 when she was the board chairman of the NSITF.

The none-count charge bordering on mismanagement, giving false statements, taking a kickback from contracts, and diversion of NSITF funds into personal accounts and companies she had an interest in, formed the basis for the defendant’s arraignment.

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One of the charges alleged that the funds were diverted through the award of suspicious contracts to proxy companies.

The offense according to prosecution contravened the provisions of sections 8,19 (1) (b) (1), punishable under the Corrupt Practice & other Related Offence Act 2000 and Section 17, (1) (2), 39 of EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 and punishable under the same section.

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The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against her.

With the defendant pleading not guilty, the prosecution counsel, Steve Odiase prayed for a date for hearing to enable the prosecution to prove her case against the defendant.

The defendant counsel, Paul Erokoro, SAN, therefore, informed the court of the bail application dated and filed on October 18 before it.

Erokoro submitted that the application was supported by a 20-paragraphs affidavit attached with six Exhibits.

He also informed the court that his client was not a flight risk, as she voluntarily returned to Nigeria when she heard that the prosecution wanted to question her.

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Erokoro further stated that his client had been reporting to the Commission’s office as she was questioned and released on bail in 2017.

The counsel equally urged the court to grant his client bail on self-recognizance or in the alternative, in the most liberal terms.

He said the bail application was predicated on medical grounds as the defendant has been diabetic and hypertensive for 30 years.

In addition, the counsel said the defendant has had four major surgeries in the U.S and South Africa.

He further stated that the defendant four months ago suffered heart failure and got infected with the Covid-19 virus in September.

He submitted in addition that the defendant had been scheduled for another follow-up surgery for November in South Africa.

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Erokoro said the defendant’s recent medical report from a medical facility stated that she required close medical monitoring as her medical status can lead to a medical emergency.

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Odiase, on his part, responded that he was not opposing the bail application, but however, opposed to the granting of bail on self-recognizance as submitted by the defence counsel.

He said that there was no consideration for bail on self-recognizance in Section 165 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ( ACJA),2015.

He urged the court to grant the defendant bail with reasonable surety.

The court, therefore, adjourned until Friday to rule on the bail application.

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