Despite opposition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 granted a former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani leave to travel abroad on medical grounds.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa, while ruling on an application by Nnamani seeking leave of the court to travel overseas for medical treatment, said that the former governor could travel abroad to treat his ailment but added that he must return to the country before the next adjourned date. He is to file a notice of return to the court as soon as he gets back to the country and return his international passport to the court.
Justice Yunusa based his ruling on one of the original conditions for bail granted Nnamani in August 2, 2007 when he was first admitted to bail. The condition was that the former governor would not travel outside the country without the permission of the court. “My understanding of the above bail condition is that anytime the accused/applicant intends to travel outside Nigeria, he must seek the leave of court…The emphasis is on seeking leave of court and not on providing justification for the journey. It is therefore my considered opinion that the first accused/applicant has fulfilled the requirement and the conditions provided under the bail bond by seeking for leave of court before embarking on the medical treatment in the United States of America”, he said.
The EFCC had opposed the ex-governor’s application on the ground that he was withholding his traveling passport since he last obtained court’s permission to travel abroad for treatment in April 2012. EFCC counsel, Kelvin Uzozie had told the court in a counter-affidavit to Nnamani’s application that Nnamani was compelled to return to Nigeria the last time he was granted permission to travel by the court. He said the documents presented to the court showed that the former governor was suffering from “chest pain, shortness of breath, cough and tiredness”, which could be treated in Nigeria.
“He has not disclosed that no doctor in Nigeria can treat chest pain, shortness of breath, cough or tiredness; or that he has tried to treat himself in Nigeria and failed. This must not be allowed. It is this kind of conduct that has delayed the trial,” he said.
Uzozie also faulted the doctor’s report tendered by Nnamani, alleging that it was not issued by a qualified person as provided by law.
In his response, Nnamani’s counsel, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), neither denied nor confirm Uzozie’s allegation that the former governor was still holding on to his passport. He said EFCC did not provide any evidence showing that it compelled Nnamani to return to Nigeria the last time he was granted similar application. “If it is true, you have to show evidence. Let’s see how you sought international intervention for him (Nnamani) to return to Nigeria,” Tarfa said.
Nnamani and others were re-arraigned before Justice Yinusa on 105 count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of about N4.5bn. The accused were said to have committed the alleged offences between 1999 and 2007 while Nnamani was the governor of Enugu State. Others standing trial along with him are his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, and six firms allegedly linked to them. The firms are, Rainbownet Nigeria Limited, Hillgate Nigeria Limited, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nigeria Limited, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth.
Justice Yunusa adjourned the matter till May 28, 2013 for continuation of trial.
Ag. Head, Media & Publicity
17th April, 2013