A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered that a former Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Lawrence Adedibu Ojerinde, be remanded in prison custody.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Obiora Egwuatu ordered that Ojerinde be kept in a correctional facility pending the hearing of his bail application, scheduled for July 8.
Justice Egwuatu gave the ruling after Ojerinde, dressed in a white native attire, was arraigned on an 18-count charge of complicity in the diversion of public funds estimated at over N5.2 billion.
The prosecuting agency – the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) – said Ojerinde committed the alleged offences in the charge from when he served as the Registrar of the National Examination Council (NECO) and his years in JAMB till 2021.
Ojerinde pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to him.
His lawyer, Peter Olorunnishola (SAN), informed the court about a bail application he filed and served on the prosecution.
He sought time to react to the counter-affidavit the lawyer to the prosecution, Ebenezer Shogunle, had filed and which Olorunnishola said was served on him late.
The defence lawyer told the court his client was also standing trial before a High Court in Minna (Niger State) in a similar case, which would be heard today.
He said Ojerinde had been arraigned and granted bail by the court in Minna which asked him to surrender his international passport.
Olorunnishoa said since hearing in the case before the court in Minna was scheduled for the next day, the court should grant his client temporary bail to enable him attend the proceedings in Niger State and return on a later date for his bail application.
Relying on Section 165(1() of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) that gives a court the discretion to grant bail, Olorunnishola argued that the purpose of a bail is to ensure that a defendant attends court and does not get punished or kept in government’s confinement.
The defence lawyer said his client was ready to stand trial and would not run away.
He prayed the court to allow the defendant to remain on the bail he was earlier granted.
Olorunishola said he had written the ICPC Chairman and sought an audience on the possibility of plea-bargain but was told his client must appear in court.
He added that the ICPC gave the impression that it was no longer interested in plea-bargain.
Responding, Shogunle acknowledged filing a counter-affidavit against the bail application, which he said had been served on the defence.
The prosecution lawyer did not object to Olorunnishola’s request for time to react to the counter-affidavit, but opposed the defence lawyer’s application that his client be allowed to remain on the administrative bail, earlier granted him by the ICPC, pending the hearing of his bail application.
Shogunle said no law supports the defence’s request for a temporary bail, adding that Ojerinde be remanded pending the hearing of his bail application.
On the defence lawyer’s claim that Ojerinde was billed to appear before the court in Minna today, Shogunle said the state had the means to moving him around.
Ruling, Justice Egwuatu ordered that the defendant be remanded in a correctional facility and adjourned till July 8 for hearing of his bail application.