There was a mild drama on Monday as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, through its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, told Justice Lawal Akapo of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja to revoke the bail granted Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin. Babalakin is standing trial alongside Alex Okoh and three companies: Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited on a 27-count charge that borders on conspiracy to commit felony, corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action and retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct to the tune of N4. 7 Billion. Jacob argued that Babalakin was conspicuously absent in court for the second time, after he failed to show up on November 27, 2013, which led to an adjournment.
According to him, “defendant failed to show up in court on the 27th of November, and he is not in court again today and that is a breach of the bail condition granted him by the previous Judge, which he is still enjoying. No explanation has been given and no medical report has been presented to this court”.
But the defence counsel, Mr. Wale Akoni, SAN, argued that there was an application before the court, asking the court to dispense the presence of the accused person, and based on this, Babalakin cannot be in the dock. But Justice Akapo, after listening to the argument of the defense counsel, stated that “the accused should have shown up in court and then the issue of challenging the charge can now come up”.
While still on this argument, the accused, Dr. Wale Babalakin walked into the court at about 11:20am, to the consternation of the prosecution counsel.
At this point, Jacob prayed the court to dock Babalakin since he was representing his companies which were not included in the application. According to Rotimi, “the accused person should come to the dock as the application to dispense was only made on behalf of the first defendant (Babalakin) alone”. But Akoni countered that the aim of the application would have been defeated if Babalakin had to be docked separately for the companies he represented.
After listening to the submissions of both the prosecuting and defense counsel, Justice Akapo said that Babalakin should not be docked as the representative of his two companies, on the grounds that he was one and the same with the company and that the companies had filed same applications challenging the charges before the court.
On the strength of the ruling, counsel to the second accused person, Mr. Obele Olaniran, then prayed the court to also excuse his client, Alex Okoh from standing in the dock. According to him, Okoh had also filed a similar application before the court.
Justice Akapo then ruled that “in view of the first ruling, the second defendant is excused from entering the dock, pending the determination of his application dated 30th January, 2013”.
A further application was also made for the release of the International passport of the second defendant, Alex Okoh, which according to Olaniran, he had collected the document a couple of times from the EFCC on court order and returned it on the agreed dates. Justice Akapo said that Okoh’s passport could only be released to him on bond and must be returned to the EFCC on January 30th, 2014.
He then adjourned the matter till January 20, 2014 for hearing of all subsisting applications.