Court Grants Ogbulafor Bail

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) yesterday arraigned Vincent Ogbulafor, the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over allegations of executing fictitious contracts.

Mr. Ogbulafor pleaded not guilty to the 16-count charge and was granted bail on liberal terms by the presiding judge, Ishaq Bello.

The arraignment was stalled at its last sitting because the National Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) embarked on an indefinite strike over a salary dispute with the federal government.

When the matter came up yesterday, Mr. Ogbulafor’s counsel, Joe Gadazama, made an oral application for his bail, to which the ICPC’s prosecutor, Adegboyega Awomolo, did not object.

Justice Bello granted Mr. Ogbulafor bail in the sum of N5 million, with two reasonable sureties each, and granted an accelerated trial date from June 21 to 24, 2010.

The charges

Mr. Ogbulafor and four others: Emeka Ebilah, Henry Ikoh, Jude Nwokoro and Emmanuel Bosah, were arraigned for creating fictitious companies and awarding government contracts to those companies, from which they benefitted.

Specifically, the PDP chairman was accused of abusing his position as the Head of the National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) – an organization established by the federal government to verify debts owed to local contractors – to approve forged documents presented by contractors as genuine, with a view to defrauding the government.

The ICPC also accuses Mr. Ogbulafor of using forged documents to certify that the fake companies successfully executed jobs worth over N200 million.

Basil Momodu, an investigator with the commission, said the other coconspirators had returned their shares of the loot, which would be used as evidence in the course of the trial. However, prosecutor, Mr. Awomolo informed the court that the fifth accused, Mr. Bosah, is dead and, as a result, the charges with which he was involved were accordingly struck out.

Mr. Momodu explained that Mr. Ebilah supplied the companies to be used in the fraud while Mr. Ogbulafor, Mr. Ebilah and Mr. Bosah ensured the fictitious contracts were verified as genuine by the NEIC. Then, Mr. Bosah ensured that payments were cleared and made at the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The third accused, Mr. Ikoh, appeared before the NEIC to present the forged contract documents for verification of the debts purportedly owed to the dummy corporations. For his role, he was paid the N7.5 million while the fourth accused, Mr. Nwokoro, who was delegated to receive the payment on behalf of the dummy corporation, was paid the N6,242,622.44 through one Austin Akobundu, a colonel.

For his role in ensuring that the Federal Ministry of Finance settled the claims of the companies, Mr. Bosah was paid N44 million through a company, Emotech Nig. Ltd.

Mr. Bosah allegedly had an arrangement with the proprietor of the organization, Emmanuel Okocha, to clear the cheques for him, to avoid any direct link between him and the others. Mr. Bosah, according to Mr. Momodu, also received N10 million from Mr. Ebilah, through a proxy called B. C. Bosah.
Source: Next Newspaper –