ECONOMIC and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials have urged the federal high court in Abuja not to grant Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) chairperson Dr Ngozi Olejeme to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Dr Olejeme is facing trial for corruption in a N3bn case but has asked for permission to travel to South Africa or the US for heart surgery. However, the EFCC has objected to the request, claiming that Dr Olejeme is a high flight risk detainee who could use the trip to bolt away and escape justice in the money laundering charges brought against her by the federal government.
In a counter affidavit to oppose the request by Dr Olejeme, the EFCC, through its counsel Steve Odiase, informed the court that the health challenges complained about by the defendant could easily be treated in Nigerian hospitals. Mr Odiase said the defendant has always been a high flight risk and the EFCC is in possession of an intelligence report indicating that she will escape trial if allowed to go abroad.
In addition, he also countered the request by Dr Olejeme asking the court to compel EFCC to remove her name from the list of wanted persons, adding that it is premature for his client to remove such declaration. In addition, the EFCC counsel objected to the admission of documents brought to court by Dr Olejeme to justify her request for abroad medical treatment, adding that being public documents, they ought to have been certified by the defendant.
Chief Paul Erokoro, Dr Olejeme’s counsel, asked the court to order the release of her international passport adding that his client had not only returned to Nigeria in the past but reported herself to the EFCC for investigation upon which criminal charges were filed against her. He further requested for an order to compel EFCC to notify the International Police (Interpol) immigration services and other relevant authorities that Dr Olejeme is no longer a wanted person.
He argued that his client needs urgent heart surgery and that the Federal Medical Center in Abuja had in a letter to the federal government confirmed the seriousness of the ailment. Insisting that the right to life is paramount and that only the living can stand trial, Chief Erokoro drew the court’s attention to the fact that Dr Olejeme has had surgeries four times.
He further said that the six biological children of his client are all in Nigeria schooling, adding also that Nigeria and South Africa have an extradition treaty that can be invoked to bring her back to the country if she refuses to return to Nigeria. Chief Erokoro debunked the EFCC’S claims that his client brought public documents to support the application adding that a letter from a government hospital to its patient did not fall under public documents.
After taking arguments from the two parties, Justice Maryam Hassan Aliyu fixed December 14 to deliver a ruling on whether to grant the request or turn it down. In the past, the EFCC had had a few high profile defendants jump bail, so is keen to avoid a similar embarrassing situation this time around.