Alleged Fraud: Court Grants N500m Bail To Saipem MD, Others – The Tide

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A Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt has granted bail to the Managing Director of Saipem Contracting, Mr. Walter Peviana, and Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe with N500million.
On January 11, the duo were remanded at the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre over an alleged conspiracy to defraud the Rivers State Government the sum of $130million.
At the resumed hearing, for bail consideration, the trial Judge, Justice Okogbule Gbasam, granted bail to the defendants in the matter filed by the state government as registered in suit number PHC/3106/CR/2021.
The prosecution in the matter is the Government of Rivers State, while the defendants are Saipem SPA (1st defendant); Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited (2nd defendant); Mr. Walter Peviana (3rd defendant); Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe (4th defendant); Giandomenico Zingali (5th defendant); Vitto Testaguzza (6th defendant), and Davide Anelli (7th defendant).
Earlier, the counsel for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th defendants, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), and the counsel for the 4th defendant, relying on Sections 194 and 169 of the Administration of Criminal Justice and Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pleaded for the bail of their clients.
The counsel told the court to grant the defendants bail considering the facility where they were detained, explaining that their clients could fall ill following the spread of the COVID-19.
Ajumogobia urged the court to grant his client, Peviana, bail owing that he is the “managing director of one of the largest company in West Africa (Saipem),” and would not jump bail.
The counsel pleaded that the court has the power to grant bail to the defendants.
But the applicant counsel, Godwin Obla (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the bail application for the defendants.
Obla argued that the money involved in the allegation, if converted to Nigeria currency, would amount to N32billion, which he said is about 6.7percent of the total state budget for the year.
He argued that the 4th defendant counsel filed application of bail a day to the client arraignment in court, saying the application did not comply with the law; hence, the court should dismiss such.
The counsel further argued that: “It shows the seriousness of the crime the accused persons were charged with and reason why the accused should not be granted bail.”
Ruling on the bail application, Gbasam noted the error in filing a bail application before the defendant appears in court.
The judge said: “The anticipation is that bail should come before arraignment, arrest or remand. The application made on January 10, 2022, was merely speculation and presumption. The 4th defendant should have filed his application after the case has been brought to court.”
He stated that the application was null and void.
Gbasam, who also expressed the discretion of the court in granting bail to the 2nd and 4th defendant, ordered that they should present two sureties each, and surety for the 2nd defendant must be a principle officer of the 1st defendant (Saipem), and must own a landed property in the state with Certificate of Ownership.
Also, as the bail condition, the judge said the defendants should deposit their international passports to the court and that sureties must deposit original papers of their landed property in the court.
However, the court adjourned the matter till February 2, 3 and 4, 2022, for accelerated hearing.
Speaking with newsmen outside the courtroom, counsel for the applicant, Obla, explained that: “The matter came up today (Tuesday) for plea as previously scheduled by the court, and the plea of the defendants were all taken to the 15 count-charge, and they moved their application for bail.
“We opposed the application for bail but also left a window for the judge to also exercise his discretion.
“He has now granted bail to the 3rd and 4th defendants in the sum of N500million each, two sureties to provide landed property, the surety for the 3rd defendant must be a managerial level with the second defendant.
“The case has been adjourned till February 2, 3, and 4, 2022, for hearing on the day-by-day basis.”
Also speaking, counsel for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th defendants, Ajumogobia, lauded the court for granting bail to his clients, but noted the high conditions of the bail.
He said: “Bail is at the discretion of the court. We made an appeal that the court should issue conditions that are not too stringent. I think the court was gracious enough to issue difficult conditions, but we will try and see how we can meet those conditions-I mean N500million is not a small amount of money for the two of the defendants.
“But at least the challenge now is to meet those conditions for bail so that they can come out of the prison,” he said.
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The House of Representatives has said that three out of every 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or another.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the House added that over 20,000,000 Nigerians were currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
To this end, the House mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue.
It also asked the Committee on Health Institution to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health.
The resolution, however, followed a motion titled “Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria” presented by Hon. Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State and considered by the House at yesterday’s plenary.
Presenting his motion, Nnam-Obi noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mental health as a state of well-being in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.
According to him, mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.
He said: “According to the World Health Organisation statistics, over twenty million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
“Three out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatisation against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalised standards for Psychiatric practice.
“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.
“Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20million citizens suffering from mental disorders.
“With the few functional Mental Health Facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.
“The statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate”
Adopting the motion, the House gave six weeks to the committees within which to carry out the assignment and report back to it for further legislative action.
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Representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, yesterday, paid a condolence visit to the Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal over the death of his elder brother, Alhaji Muhammed Bello.
Bello, who is also the Waziri of Tambuwal, passed on in Sokoto, last Tuesday night at the age 87.
He was the head of the Tambuwal family.
On the PDP governors’ delegation were, Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Oluseyi Makinde (Oyo); and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
The Vice Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who led the delegation, said they were in Sokoto to commiserate with Tambuwal and his entire family over the sudden death of his elder brother.
“We feel your pain, and we understand that a great vacuum has been created, not only within the caliphate, but across Nigeria and other places where Daddy had sphere of influence. We believe that God Almighty will grant you the fortitude to bear this great loss.
“We are, however, consoled by the fact that Daddy left legacies that will remain indelible; one of them is your very good self and your impact and contributions to our dear country.”
The governors urged the Tambuwal family, particularly the Sokoto State governor, to remain strong, steadfast and uphold those virtues which the late Waziri of Tambuwal, cherished so much.
In his response, Sokoto StateGovernor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who is the PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, said the entire Tambuwal family was gladdened by the condolence visit.
According to him, his late elder brother, who lived his life in the service of community, held the family title, Waziri of Tambuwal for 37 years after the demise of their father.
“We are, indeed, very highly consoled not only by your presence, but your words of consolation. For you to have left behind whatever you are doing in your respective states to come all the way to Sokoto this afternoon, shows clearly how you sympathise with us and how close you are to us. I assure you that we appreciate this.”
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