The Federal High Court, will, on Friday, Nov. 22, ruled on the application for bail variation of James Nolan, a Briton, in Abuja.
Justice Okon Abang, who made this known, on Wednesday, also adjournment the continuation of trial in the suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Nolan until Nov. 21.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that EFCC had, on Oct. 21, arraigned Nolan and Adam Quinn (at large), both British nationals, over their alleged complicity in the 9.6 billion dollars judgment against Nigeria.
Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), an Irish engineering company, had secured the award against Nigeria following the non-execution of a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) the company had with the federal government.
The arraignment of the two British nationals is coming weeks after two P&ID directors were convicted over the deal.
The defendants, both directors of Goidel Resources Limited, a Designated Non-Financial Institution (DNFI) and ICIL Limited, were arraigned on a 16-count charge bordering on money laundering.
Justice Abang had, on Nov. 7, admitted Nolan to a bail in the sum of N500 million.
The judge, who granted the bail in an application filed by Nolan, ordered that the applicant must produce “a surety in like sum, who must be a Nigerian and a serving senator not standing any criminal trial in any court in Nigeria.
Besides, he held that the proposed surety must submit a three years tax clearance certificate and sign an undertaking to always be present in court with the defendant throughout the duration of the trial.
“The senator must have a landed property fully developed in Maitama District of Abuja and fully certified by the FCDA.
”The surety must submit two passport photographs,” Abang had ruled.
Likewise, the court ordered the defendant to surrender all his international passports, even as it mandated the Nigerian Immigration Service to confirm how many passports that were issued to him within the past 20 years.
Earlier at the resumed trial on Wednesday, the EFCC’s Counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, had told Justice Abang that since the matter was slated for trial, the anti-graft agency was ready to commence the trial.
The lawyer told the court that he was in the court with two witnesses.
However, Counsel to the defendant, Paul Erokoro, SAN, told the court that he was not prepare for the commencement of trial due to inability to have adequate access to his client.
Erokoro told the court that he had already briefed the prosecution about the difficulty he faced in preparing for the trial.
He explained that Nolan was being held at Kuje Correctional Centre where they were allowed access to him twice a week.
According to him, and on each visit, we are allowed only 15 minutes.
The lawyer attributed this to the fact that there were lots of persons awaiting trial at the correctional center who all need to be visited by their counsel and families.
He said it was disheartening that all these persons received their visitors at once without any privacy, besides the time constraint.
“Again, the visitors are supervised by prison officers. So the time for proper communication is not there,” Erokoro said.
He lamented that the development had made it difficult for him to prepare for the trial.
The lawyer, who reminded the court about the application for bail variation before it, prayed the court to favourably grant the request to allow the defendant counsel have adequate time and facility for their defence.
“We therefore appeal for adjournment until your Lordship fix a date for hearing in the variation of bail application,” he said.
Opposing the request, the EFCC lawyer argued that though “the law provides facilities and time for a defendant, such facilities do not include that the defendant must be released on bail before he can brief his counsel.”
Iheanacho stressed that the law does not include confidentiality between a defendant and his counsel on the briefing they must have at a correctional centre.
“We have served the defendant the prove of evidence in this case since September and today is Nov. 20.
‘So the defendant has sufficient time to have briefed his counsel even if it is 15 minutes per a visit and two times visit per week.
“We have two witnesses in court today and we are ready to proceed,” he said.
Responding, Erokoro said that the prove of evidence was served on the defendant while he was at EFCC’s custody and that through the period, “we had no access to him.
“It was only when this court kindly ordered that the 3rd defendant be remanded at Kuje Correctional Centre that we are able to have access to him.
“We thank your Lordship for that kindness,” he said.
The lawyer argued further that if the prosecution counsel called his witnesses, it would be difficult for him to cross-examine them and that this might amount to wasting the precious time of the court.
Erokoro, who commended Justice Abang on the way he had handled the case so far, said: “My Lord, you have handled the case in a way that Nigerian judiciary looks good before international community because the whole world is watching this case.”
Justice Abang, however, said that his decision on the matter would be based on the fact of the case and the law.
“I hope you will be able to say this when the case does not favour you because justice will definitely be done,” Abang told Erokoro.
Delivering his ruling on application for adjournment, the judge noted that though the defendant should be given adequate time and facilities for his defence, this does not mean that the defendant must be released to have adequate preparation.
According to him, it is my view that the commencement of the trial can not be depended on the granting of the variation of bail.
The judge, who said that he could not make a decision on the issue that the prison officers did not allow him adequate time.
He said to take a decision on the issue without hearing from the officers, even though they are not party in the case, would mean denying them of fair hearing.
Justice Abang, who overruled Erokoro on application for adjournment, therefore, ordered the prosecution to call the witnesses.
The first prosecution witness, Mr Agunbiade Adewale Akinseye, told the court that he is an account officer with the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB).
“I have worked with the bank for 15 years,” he said.
Akinseye, who enumerated his duty in the bank, said he knows Mr James Nolan and the two companies; Goidel Resources Limited and ICIL Limited.
“The accounts of the two companies are assigned to my team to manage,” he said.
He explained that his team was charged with attending to customers’ requests and resolving their issues.
Akinseye said on September 16, 2019, his team received a request from the EFCC to provide accounts opening documents and statements of accounts of the companies and that they were forwarded to the commission.
He said the account documents were jointly signed by his colleagues; Idris Giwa and Beckley Ojo, members of the compliance team in the bank.
The witness, who confirmed that Nolan and Isaac Ebubeogu were signatory to accounts numbers: 0154696732 and 0151728629, said $125, 000 was credited into the account number: 0154696732 of Goidel Resources Limited on February 1, 2016 by Nolan.
“On May 2, 2019, $47, 975 was transferred from Industrial Consultant International to Goidel Resources Limited.
“On February 13, 2018, a transfer of $120, 000 from LIR Resources Nigeria Ltd to Goidel Resources Limited,” he said.
Akinseye added that on account number: 0151728629, N50 million was transferred from Box Design Ltd to Goidel Resources Limited on February 15, 2015.
“On November 6, 2015, there was a transfer of N10 million from Box Design Ltd to Goidel Resources Limited.
“On May 5, 2016, there was a transfer of N11 million from Lurgi Consults Ltd to Goidel Resources Limited.
“On 1st February, 2018, there was a transfer if N10 million from Eclate Plathora Ltd to Goidel Resources Limited,” he testified.
The witness, who said Nolan was also signatory to ICIL Limited’s account, said on the account number: 0024024414, there was a transfer of $350, 000 from Pasali Enterprises to ICIL Limited on September 1, 2014.
“On 3red September, 2014, there was a transfer via cheque of $80, 000 from ICIL Committed to Ahmed Usman.
“On September 4, 2014, there was a transfer of $40, 000 from ICIL Limited to Neil and Elizabeth for salary payment.
“On September 8, 2014, there was a transfer of $700, 000 from ICIL Limited to Ahmed Usman,” he stated.
Akinseye, who responded to Erokoro’s question during cross-examination, said the account of ICIL Limited started operating in May 2014.
He gave criteria for opening corporate account in the bank and conditions with which such account could be placed on restriction.
Akinseye, who said that Goidel Resources Limited is into oil and gas business, as well as other activities in their memorandum of association of the company, stated that ICIL Limited is an engineering firm that engages in contract, consultancy, etc.
He said he came to testify because the accounts were assigned to his team to manage.
“So I was contacted during investigation and I was invited to give evidence.
“I have written statement about what I know about the existence of these accounts and I made the statement nit as a suspect but as an account officer,” he said.
When the defendant counsel demanded for the original of the witness’ statement, the EFCC lawyer, though said he was not with it in the court, he promised to make it available after the sitting.
In his ruling, Justice Abang, therefore, granted Erokoro access to Nolan within the regulation time of the correctional service centre, pending the hearing and the termination of the defendant’s application for the variation of the bail conditions.
The judge, who adjourned the matter till Nov. 21 for continuation of cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, fixed Nov. 22 for hearing of the application for bail variation. (NAN)