By Andy Chukwu
A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos has remanded Abdulahi Babalele, a son-in-law to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the custody of the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Nicholas Oweibo on Wednesday also granted a motion exparte seeking leave of court that the money laundering case against Babalele should be heard during the ongoing court vacation.
Babalele is facing a two-count charge of money laundering to the tune of $140,000, an offence he is said to have committed in February.
Rotimi Oyedepo, the counsel to the EFCC, while moving the motion for the trial of the accused during court vacation, asked that the motion be granted in the interest of justice.
Mike Ozekhome, Babalele’s counsel, informed the court that he had no misgivings about the motion moved by the prosecution and the motion was subsequently granted by the presiding Judge.
Moving the motion for bail, Ozekhome informed the court that he had filed an application for bail on August 9, and had notified the prosecuting counsel.
“My learned colleague informed me that he needs to react. The defendant has been in the custody of the EFCC since last Thursday and I plead with my lord to allow the defendant continue to stay with the EFCC, pending the time his bail application is heard.”
In response, Oyedepo informed the court that the EFCC holding facility is overstretched and they can no longer accommodate the defendant.
“The learned SAN, when we discussed, I told him his request for his client to remain with us is not in my power. ”
“The defendant has been arraigned and discrimination should not be seen in the treatment of citizens. If my lordship, after arraignment, sends unknown citizens to prison detention, I see no reason why this should be different. ”
“Also, our facilities are overstretched already and the Nigerian Prison Service is empowered to deal with such cases.”
Ozekhome however informed the court that keeping his client in EFCC custody after arraignment pending hearing of his bail application was not a matter of discrimination but a case of looking at the peculiarities of each case.
Justice Oweibo granted the request of the defendant and asked the parties to come back tomorrow for the hearing of bail application. He said the defendant should be remanded in EFCC custody.
Babalele had been arrested by the EFCC in February on the suspicion of laundering money that the EFCC said was for vote-buying. He was placed on administrative bail while investigations continued.
He was, however, rearrested on August 9, prior to his arraignment on Wednesday.
The offences are said to be contrary to Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.