Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption watchdog, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on March 24, 2020, arraigned Ope Saraki, the former Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Sustainable Development Goals before Justice Babangana Ashigar of a Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Ope Saraki is a cousin to Senator Bukola Saraki, the former Senate President, who is also is facing money laundering charges.
The letters of the charge reads: “That you, Ope Saraki, sometime in February 2019, whilst being the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Kwara State on Sustainable Development Goals at Ilorin within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court, did receive cash payment of N11,180,000.00 (Eleven Million, One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira) from one Kunle Adimula, an employee of Kwara State Government, which sum exceeded the cash payable to an individual and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 and 16 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 16 of the same Act.”
The Prosecuting counsel, Sesan Ola, appealed to the court to set a date for the commencement of trial “in order to enable the prosecution call its witnesses and prove our case”.
on his part, Dr. Joshua Olatoke, SAN, Lead defence counsel, implored the Court “to use your discretion to grant bail to the defendant pending the hearing and final determination of this case”.
“I want my lord to take judicial notice of the present challenges of coronavirus that is confronting the country, it is only the living that can stand trial my lord, that is why I want your lordship to use your discretion and grant bail to the defendant,” he said.
Justice Ashigar, while ruling on the application, granted bail to the defendant in the sum of N10 million naira with two sureties in like sum. He ordered that one of the sureties must reside in the jurisdiction of the Court, adding that Saraki should submit his travel documents to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court.
The Judge ordered that Ope Saraki should remain in the EFCC’s custody until he perfected his bail conditions.
The case was adjourned to May 15, 2020, for further hearing .
*** Lilian Ogbonna