After two failed attempts, embattled businessman and Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, Olawale Babalakin today, January 17, 2013, took his plea on a 27-count criminal charge that borders on conspiracy to commit felony, corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action and retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct to the tune of N4. 7 Billion.
He was arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside Alex Okoh and three companies: Stabilini Vision Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited.
One of the charge reads: “that you, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin, Stabilini Visioni Limited and Bi-Courtney Limited between May 2006 and December 2006 within the jurisdiction of the Honourable court did corruptly confer benefit on former Governor James Onanefe Ibori to wit: the sum of N1,356,600,000.00 (One Billion, Three Hundred and Fifty Six Million, Six Hundred Thousand Naira) on account of contracts awarded by Delta State Government to Stabilini Visioni Limited by transferring the sum through various third parties to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the purchase of Challenger Jet Aircraft by the said James Onanefe Ibori”.
At the proceedings, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, prayed the court to accept the charges and information filed on the November 21, 2012 for the defendants to take their pleas. However, counsel to the 1st accused person, Olawale Akoni, SAN, said he had already filed a number of applications before the court and prayed that the applications be considered. Also, counsel to the 2nd accused person, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, informed the court that he had filed an application for bail for his client though he agreed that his client should take his plea. Other counsel holding briefs for the three companies involved in the matter also agreed that plea be taken.
However, Justice Onigbanjo drew Akoni’s attention to the contradiction of seeking an adjournment sine die and at the same time asking that the charges preferred against Babalakin be quashed. Akoni deferred to the judge and withdrew the application seeking to quash the charges. This paved way for Babalakin to take his plea. Both Babalakin and Okoh pleaded not guilty to all the charges
Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, did not oppose the applications for bail for both Babalakin and Okoh. He, however, prayed the court to impose conditions that will compel them to be available for trial. Justice Onigbanjo, subsequently admitted both Babalakin and Okoh to bail on self-recognition. He, however, ordered them to deposit their international passports with the EFCC and adjourned proceedings till February 26, 2013 for continuation of trial.
Attempts to arraign the defendants on November 29 and December 12, 2012 were unsuccessful due to the purported ill-health of the first defendant and his hospitalization at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), for undisclosed illness. While in hospital, Babalakin made two attempts to stop his prosecution but his applications for the enforcement of his fundamental rights and challenging the competence of the charge against him were thrown out by both Justices Mohammed Idris and Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High, Lagos as lacking in merit.