N1.9b fraud: Oronsaye arraigned, released pending bail hearing

OronsayeA Federal High Court in Abuja Monday granted former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, and his co-accused, release from custody pending the hearing of their bail application.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole made the order shortly after the accused were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 24 counts of complicity in money laundering and contract scam amounting to N1.9billion.

The others standing trial are Mr. Osarenkhoe Afe and a company that was allegedly used to perpetuate the fraud, Frederick Hamilton and Global Services.

Justice Kolawole, who adjourned the hearing of the bail applications till July 21, ruled that the release granted to the accused persons would only take effect upon filing of written undertakings by defence lawyers assuring that they would produce their clients in court at the next hearing date.

The judge hinged his decision to release the accused persons in the interim on the grounds that the EFCC had not indicated that the accused persons, particularly Oronsaye, had the tendency of absconding from trial.

He had also overruled the request by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Aliyu Yussuf, for the remand of the accused persons in prison.

The judge held that he could not force the accused persons on the EFCC whose counsel contended that there was no space to accommodate them in its custody, ‎but under the principle of “interim judicial reprieve,” the court lacked the power to release the accused persons pending the hearing of the bail applications.

He therefore fixed October 28, 29; November 3, 5 as well as December 5 for trial.

Oronsaye is accused of committing procurement fraud in 2010 under the pretext of using the various sums of money, illegally withdrawn from the Federal Government’s account, for “biometric data capturing project”.

The offences were allegedly committed when Oronsaye was Head of Service between 2009 and 2010 and said to be contrary to provisions of section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and section 1(1) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offences Act.

Oronsaye, 64, was appointed the Head of the Nigerian Civil Service in 2009.