By Fabian Amadi, Abuja
A former member of the Federal House of Representatives, Nze Chidi Duru has been arraigned before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for allegedly diverting N16.1m pension funds.
Duru was arraigned on a four-count charge bothering on falsification of documents and money laundering.
He was said to have committed the offence when he was the Vice Chairman of First Guaranttee Pension Ltd.
He pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to him yesterday, following which lead prosecution lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir applied for a date for the commencement of trial.
He also sought the remand of the defendant in prison pending the next date.
Before Tahir could conclude his submission, Justice Peter Affen his attention to a notice of preliminary objection filed by the defendant, challenging the validity of the charge.
Although Tahir claimed not to have been served with the objection, defence lawyer, Abdul Mohammed insisted that the prosecution was duly served by the court’s bailiff on February 2, 2017. He said there was evidence to that effect in the court’s file.
Justice Affen later confirmed, from evidence in the court’s file, that the prosecution was served with the defendant’s objection on February 2.
He noted that the service was acknowledged by an official of the prosecuting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), identified as Adigwe Patricia
Responding to Tahir’s application for his client to be remanded in prison, Mohamed urged the court to exercise its discretionary powers to grant his client bail.
Relying on sections 158 and 163 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Mohammed said his client was entitled to bail since he did not constitute a flight risk and was not in a position to tamper with evidence.
Mohammed urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that the defendant was a lawyer.
Tahir objected to Mohammed’s oral application for bail, arguing that the defendant could evade trial and he had evaded arrest before now. He said Duru was in a position to tamper with evidence because he had once invaded the premises of Firs Guarantee Pension, with armed policemen and carted away vital documents and other items.
Dressed in blue suit and white shirt, Duru, who looked frail, was allowed by the court to sit all through proceedings.
Ruling, Justice Affen agreed with Mohammed’s arguments and granted Duru bail on self-recognisance. The judge ordered him to deposit his international passport with the court.
He adjourned to February 27 for the hearing of Duru’s notice of preliminary objection.