The trial of one Philemon Gora, Osigwe Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos for an alleged N525 million fraud continued on April 28, 2022, with the trial court refusing bail for Gora, the first defendant while granting bail to Edison, the second defendant, in the sum of N50 million.
The first defendant, Gora, was arrested by the EFCC in July 2021, following a petition alleging that he used one of his front companies, Gracious Environ Workers & Planners Nigeria Limited, to obtain the sum of N525million from a traditional ruler, Kabiyesi Jacob Esan of Ijesa, Osun State and owner of Liberitas Plc, with the assurance of helping him convert it to the United Arab Emirate, UAE, Dirham.
Gora, however, reneged on the agreement with the complainant, as an investigation by the EFCC revealed that he, instead, transferred the money to his various accounts as well as to some Bureaux de Change operators, who confirmed giving him the Dollar equivalent in cash, which he diverted to his personal use.
The defendants were on December 6, 2021, arraigned on a 10-count charge bordering on stealing, conspiracy to obtain by false witness and obtaining by false pretence.
One of the counts reads: “Philemon Ibrahim Gora, Osigwe Tobechukwu Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court ,and with intent to defraud ,did conspire amongst yourselves to steal the total sum of N525,000,000 (Five Hundred and Twenty-five Million Naira) property of HRH Jacob Esan.”
Another count reads: “Philemon Ibrahim Gora, Osigwe Tobechukwu Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dishonesty converted to your own use the total sum of N300, 000,000 (Three Hundred Million Naira) property of Liberitas Plc.”
The defendants are further accused of defrauding Mabilla Resource Ltd. of the sum of N140million, and Covidol Traders, UAE of the sum of N85million.
They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
The defence counsel, Mohammed Ofoku (for Gora) and Aloy Ezenduka (for Osigwe and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited), filed the bail applications of the defendants, which today were heard by the court.
The defence team argued that the charges against the defendants were bailable ones and that they were entitled to bail.
They urged the Court to exercise its discretion in favour of the defendants.
In opposing the bail application, the prosecuting counsel, Chineye Okezie, filed a 21-paragraph counter-affidavit, urging the Court to refuse them bail.
The prosecution further argued that Gora, who is also being prosecuted by the EFCC at a Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, jumped bail and in the period continued to commit several other offences.
His bail was also revoked by the court.
The prosecution added that it took the EFCC some efforts to later track him down and apprehend him, and ensured his attendance at his trial at the FCT High Court.
The prosecution further urged the Court to take into cognisance “the gravity and severity of the offence”, which in the instance “makes the case one in which bail should not be granted as a matter of it being an economic crime that strikes at the foundation of the wellbeing of this nation”.
After listening to the arguments of both parties and going through their submissions, the trial judge held that: “In view of the foregoing, the first defendant applicant’s application for bail is hereby rejected.”
The second defendant was, however, granted bail in the sum of N50 million, with two sureties in like sum, one of whom must be a property owner in Lagos with proof of authentication of title; the second surety is to show proof of gainful employment.
Both sureties must be residents in Lagos with proof of residency and produce evidence of three years of tax payment.
The case was, thereafter, adjourned till May 9 to 13, 2022 for the continuation of trial.