A federal high court in Abuja yesterday remanded former Bayelsa State governor Timipre Sylva in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) till Thursday when his application for bail would be heard.
The EFCC had arraigned Sylva on a six-count charge of alleged fraudulent procurement of N2 billion loan from Union Bank Plc purportedly to augment the salaries of the state's civil servants.
The EFCC further alleged that the ex-governor connived with certain officials of the state and others (now at large) to short-change the state to the tune of N2 billion while in office. When the charge was read to the accused, he pleaded 'not guilty' to the alleged offences. But Sylva's lead lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), asked the court to admit him to bail after he pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge.
Fagbemi told the court that the former governor submitted himself to the court and was never declared wanted, adding that the Supreme Court had established, in several cases, that an accused should be presumed innocent pending his being found guilty by the court.
EFCC's lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, however, opposed the bail application and drew the attention of the court to efforts made by the commission to serve him with the charge.
Keyamo asked the court to refuse the bail application and instead make an order for accelerated hearing of the case.
After hearing both parties on the issue, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned the case till June 7, 2012, to rule on the bail application.
Immediately the court concluded proceedings in the matter and was about to call up the next case, EFCC operatives dashed into the court to effect Sylva's arrest.
But the EFCC's action angered Justice Bello who had to order the operatives out of his court, saying he was yet to sign the enrolment order for the commission to take the suspect to its custody.
The EFCC charge against the accused reads in part, "That you, Timipre Sylva, as governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, sometime between October 2009 and February 2010, at various places in Nigeria, including Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court did conspire to commit a crime to wit: conversion of properties and resources amounting to N2,000,000,000.00 belonging to Bayelsa State Government and derived from an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said amount and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act), 2004 and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act.
"That you converted the sum of N380,000,000.00, property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a bureau de change operator with Account No. 221433478108, in FinBank Plc, which sum he knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.
"That you Sylva, with others now at large, on or about the 5th of February 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N50,000,000.00, property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Enson Benmer Limited with Account No. 6152030001946, in First Bank, Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.