Former Abia Chief Of Staff Granted Bail

The Abia State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the recovery of government property and funds, led by retired Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe, has granted bail to Prof ACB Agbazuere, the former Chief of Staff to the immediate past Governor of the state. The bail amount is set at five hundred thousand naira, and Agbazuere is required to provide one surety in a similar sum. Agbazuere had been issued a bench warrant by the panel on January 10th, 2024, after being summoned to clarify issues concerning government vehicles in his possession.

In announcing the decision regarding case file JPREC/270/2023, Justice Duruoha-Igwe emphasized that Agbazuere’s chosen surety must swear an affidavit of means and should be either a Permanent Secretary of Grade Level 17 or a serving Member in the State House of Assembly from the Constituency of the witness. The panel has adjourned the hearing on the matter until February 2nd, 2024.

During the proceedings, Justice Duruoha-Igwe also addressed the inquiry into the former Deputy Chief of Staff, Sir Don Ubani, who had been issued a bench warrant. Upon consideration of the panel’s counsel’s application and responses from the counsel representing Ubani, Justice Duruoha-Igwe subpoenaed Sir Don Ubani to lift the bench warrant. Emphasizing the need for a more thorough investigation, the Justice expressed skepticism about the claim that the Toyota Fortuna Jeep was bequeathed to Ubani through an Executive Council decision by the past administration. Despite Ubani’s testimony, the panel highlighted the lack of concrete evidence and called for additional witnesses to provide clarity on the matter.

“I have considered the application of the learned counsel to the panel and the response of the counsel representing the witness, sir Don Ubani and I am of the view that there is a need to further investigate if there was an Exco decision bequeathing the Toyota Fortuna jeep on the witness,” he said.

“Apart from the recent visit by the witness, there is nothing before us to hold on to. We need to scout for this evidence through other witnesses that are yet to appear before us but peradventure, the witness lays his hands on this all-important exco decision, he should file the same for the panel’s use to enable us to come up with a sound recommendation at the end of our hearing.

“In the interim, Sir Don Ubani is to enter into an undertaken to preserve the Toyota Fortuna black Jeep with Chassis no; MHFDS8FS9L0104225 with Engine no 2TRA691618 and to produce same whenever required to do so.

“The bench warrant issued on the witness on 10th January 2024 is hereby vacated,” Justice Duruoha said.

Justice Duruoha-Igwe while reiterating that the panel is on a fact-finding mission said that they are not out to witch-hunt any group or individual adding that their decisions reflect the commitment to a fair and thorough investigation which allows for the collection of pertinent evidence before reaching any conclusions.

Earlier in their separate submissions, Prof ACB Agbazuere and Sir Don Ubani said contrary to the impression created that the panel was out to witch hunt past political office holders, the panel is made up of men and women of proven integrity who are on a state assignment to get the records straight and assured that they would be available whenever they are called upon.

The panel acknowledged the recovery of a Toyota Hummer bus from the immediate past provost of the Abia State College of Education Technical, Arochukwu, Dr. Philip Ntoh, and returned same to the college.

The immediate past Head of Service, Sir Onyii Wamah also appeared before the panel on account of a Toyota Prado Jeep said to have been bequeathed to him by the immediate past government of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.