Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and Gas Resources, Hon. Nicholas Mutu was, on Monday, docked at the Federal High Court, Abuja, over alleged graft of N320.1 million.
Mutu was arraigned before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo on 11-count charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
News Agency of Nigeria reports that while the EFCC is the plaintiff, the lawmaker, Airworld Technologies Ltd. and Oyien Homes Ltd. were 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
EFCC counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, told court that the commission filed 11 counts amended charge against Mutu and urged judge to direct that the charges be read to the defendant for his plea to be taken.
After the charges were read to him, the lawmaker pleaded not guilty.
Iheanacho then applied for a trial date and asked the court to remand the defendant in prison custody.
Defence Counsel, P.I.N. Ikwueto, SAN, however, pleaded to the court to release the defendant for him but the request was vehemently opposed by the prosecution.
But Iheanacho narrated how the defendant had been evasive and refused to report to the commission’s office in line with administrative bail granted him on Aug. 16, 2018, after his arrest on allegations bordering on corruption.
He argued that since the bail was taken by his lawyer then, Anthony Ikoli, SAN, the defendant refused to report to the commission’s office despite several demands for him to report.
The prosecution also informed court that although at a point, the defendant’s sureties were arrested for them to show cause why they should not forfeit the bail sum, Mutu failed to turn up “until today’s hearing because of the fear of the warrant of arrest.”
He assured that his client would always be in court at every adjourned date.
Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, however, noted that since there was no motion for bail in the court record, Ikwueto should file the bail application before the close of work.
The judge, who took into consideration the fear expressed by the prosecution on the availability of the defendant in court, also considered the defence counsel’s argument.
She noted that bail is at the discretion of the court and that the offence for which the defendant was standing trial was bailable.
According to Iheanacho, his coming today was not based on voluntariness but the fear that warrant of arrest will be issued against him.
“My Lord, before this honourable court, the defendant is an accused person,” he said.
He reminded that the case had been heard at least three times before the judge and that on the last adjourned date on Jan. 20, he applied for issuance of warrant of arrest on the legislator.