The Federal Government on Monday arraigned a property developer, Cecil Osakwe, at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court over alleged electricity theft.
Mr Osakwe was arraigned on a two-count charge bordering on alleged tampering and interfering with electricity fittings, metres and appliances.
According to the charge, the offence led to the loss of revenue amounting to N11 million.
He, however, pleaded not guilty to both counts when the charge was read to him.
Following his not-guilty plea, the prosecuting counsel, Alibaba Maman, prayed the court for a date to enable him to prove the charge against the defendant.
Victor Giwa, counsel to the defendant, prayed the court to grant his client bail based on self-recognisance.
Mr Giwa told the court that his client was a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record and had never committed any offence.
The lawyer also told the court that if granted bail, his client would not interfere with investigations and would always attend court.
He also said that his client never abused the administrative bail granted him by the Special Investigative Task Force on Electricity Theft that was investigating the case.
The trial judge, Binta Nyako, said she was minded to admit the defendant to bail because the prosecution had not placed any material before the court to convince her to refuse bail.
She admitted the defendant to N1 million bail with two sureties in like sum who must be resident in Abuja.
Ms Nyako told the defendant that since the bail was in the most liberal terms, he should not miss his trial, saying the bail would be revoked if he missed even a day.
Earlier, Mr Osakwe had, through his counsel, tried to stop the arraignment because there was a pending suit challenging the legality of the panel that investigated him.
His counsel told the court that awaiting the outcome of the pending suit before arraigning his client was vital to the defendant’s fair hearing.
He said that they were challenging the legality of the panel because the panel was not known to the law.
The judge, however, said she would not take any interlocutory applications except after the defendant had taken his plea.
She adjourned the matter until May 2 for trial.
Speaking to journalists, the prosecuting counsel said that prosecution of the defendant would serve as a deterrent to others who had the intention of tempering with electricity metres.
The two-count charge read: “That you, Osakwe Cecil, sometime in the month of September 2021 at No 1, Mekong Close, Maitama, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, unlawfully interfered with the supply of electricity by converting same which led to the losses of revenue and that in naira value about N11 million.
“You thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 1(10) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
“That you, Osakwe Cecil, at No 1, Mekong Close, Maitama, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, unlawfully interfered with electricity fittings, metres and appliances knowing that you are converting supplying of electricity illegally.
“You thereby committed an offence contrary and punishable under Section 1(10) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act.”
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