Alleged N35m Fraud: Court Sets Aside Bail Granted Bizman, Ericbona Ushie, Over Grandstanding Video

Justice O.O. Abike-Fadipe of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has set aside the bail earlier granted one Ericbona Ushie, a businessman and politician who is standing trial for an alleged N35 million fraud, and adjourned till June 20, 2024 for the defence to refute video evidence by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in which he was seen grandstanding in the comfort of his house, instead of being in custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service.

The EFCC had on February 12, 2024 arraigned the Cross River State-born politician on 13 –count charge bordering on stealing, obtaining under false pretense, use of false documents, forgery, and possession of fraudulent documents to the tune of N35,397,000( (Thirty-five Million Three Hundred and Ninety-seven Thousand Naira).

One of the counts reads: “Ericbona Eliom Ushie, sometime in 2023, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dishonestly converted the total sum of N35,397,000.00, property of Calibration and Non-destructive Services Limited for your own use.”

Another count reads: “Ericbona Eliom Ushie, sometime in 2023 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court with intent to defraud the aggregate sum of N35,397,000.00 property of Calibration and Non-destructive Services Limited under the pretense that the said sum was for the purpose of securing award of contract from Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.”

He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Following his plea, counsel to the EFCC, Bilikisu Buhari, told the court that the prosecution had a list of 13 witnesses it intended to call to prove its case. The defence counsel, C.C. Orji had informed the court of the bail application of the defendant.

“We have also served the same on the prosecution,” Orji said. Buhari, however, informed the court that the prosecution was opposing the bail and had filed its counter-affidavit.

Orji had prayed the court to admit the defendant to bail, arguing that he had been in EFCC custody since December 2, 2023.
“He is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

Orji further argued that he did not constitute a flight risk, and pleaded with the court to release him to her on self- recognition. In opposition, the prosecution argued that his detention in EFCC custody was based on a court order.

“He also has pending cases with various courts,” Buhari said.

Justice Abike-Fadipe had declined to release him to the defence counsel, ordered his remand in prison custody, and adjourned till February 22, 2024 for hearing and ruling on the bail application.

Ruling on the bail application, Justice Abike-Fadipe granted him bail in the sum of N35 million and two sureties in like sum, who must reside and have property within Lagos, with evidence of tax payment in the last three years. The court further ordered that he be remanded in prison custody pending the perfection of the bail conditions.
However, on February 26, 2024, Buhari brought to the attention of the court a viral video on social media, in which the defendant was posing from the comfort of his house at Lekki, Lagos State, grandstanding that he was never arrested, detained or sent to prison by any court.

In the video, which was shown in open court, the defendant who was supposed to be in prison custody, was seated with a plate of jollof rice, a bottle of water, and a pack of juice at the cozy dining table of his house.
“I wasn’t arrested”, Ushie was seen in the video bragging.

Boasting further, Ushie retorted: “It baffles me, the energy [some people] use to try to destroy…It is disheartening… I am sitting in the comfort of my house… Today is 18th February [2024] Sunday, the day before yesterday was 16th… I don’t know, one element of no commercial value, posted something on Facebook; anybody can sponsor any post… and then, they go ahead to say that me, Ericbona Eliom Ushie, Honourable, [that] I am in prison… e be like sey Nigeria Prisons dem don dey get prison wey dey [fine] like this [my beautiful house] o.”

Upon seeing the video, Justice Abike-Fadipe, expressed surprise, and stood down the bail earlier granted to the defendant.

The court further ordered that he should remain in prison custody till June 20, 2024 when the defence is expected to refute the said video.