N15,000 bribe delays release of defendant weeks after magistrate’s approval by Afeez Hanafi

About four weeks after his bail was approved by a magistrate’s court sitting in Agbara, Ogun State, 38-year-old Ayodeji Muhammed, is languishing in Ilaro prison because his wife could not raise N15,000 bribe allegedly demanded by the court orderly, a policeman.

The money, our correspondent learnt, was reportedly meant for transport fare and other “logistics” to facilitate the presentation of the approved bail at the prison.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that Muhammed, a security guard at a nylon producing company in Agbara, was arraigned on September 3, 2018 along witha factory worker, Jamiu Bakare, on attempted stealing of diesel which belonged to the firm.

They pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail by the court.

Their bail conditions were said to have been perfected respectively and approved by the magistrate, who issued warrants for their release.

While Bakare was released from prison on September 28, after his family reportedly paid N15,000 for “transport fare and other logistics,” Muhammed was held back as his wife, who stood surety for him, could not raise the money.

The wife, Valentina, told our correspondent that the events that led to her husband’s remand started in August when some diesel was discovered missing on the factory premises.

She said, “He was a security guard in the company and he worked one week on, one week off. He was ill on the day he was supposed to resume duty and he begged a colleague to stand in for him. When he resumed two days after, he was told that some diesel was missing and that he would be held responsible.

“While he was on duty at night, he caught a factory worker in the bush around the company with the diesel and he raised the alarm. He reported to the operational manager and the diesel was recovered. The following day, the managing director sacked him (Mohammed) and some of his colleagues. The MD directed that they should be paid their salaries.

“But his immediate boss did not want to pay him. He (Mohammed) insisted that he would collect his salary. The boss reported a case of attempted stealing to the police at the Agbara division and he was arrested along with Bakare. They were charged to court on September 3.”

Valentina explained that she was interviewed by the magistrate as a surety, adding that the court registrar, identified simply as Lateefat, called her on September 19, informing her that the bail bond had been approved and a release warrant issued.

“When I got to the court, I was asked to sign somewhere in the release warrant which I did. I asked the registrar when my husband would be released. She said the release warrant would be given to the police. She said it was official and that I could not take it to the prison by myself.

“I met with the court orderly, Sergeant Opeyemi, who asked me to pay N15,000 as transport fare if I wanted him to go to Ilaro prison to bring out my husband. I told him I did not have money and he said there was nothing he could do. A relative of Bakare told me the family paid N15,000 before he was released.”

When our correspondent spoke to the court orderly on Tuesday on the telephone, he admitted that the release warrant had been approved by the magistrate.

However, he denied demanding N15,000 from the woman, adding that the warrant was with the registrar.

Opeyemi said, “His (Mohammed’s) bail had been approved by the magistrate. The warrant of release is with the court registrar. The registrar ought to have gone to the prison for his release. I did not know anything about the money. I did not have any discussion relating to money with the surety.

“I intended to call the prison and tell them to include his name among those they would bring to court. The counsel advised the woman to give money to the warders that would bring him. Warders were supposed to come on Tuesday, but they did not because the court was on leave. The court will resume next week. The other defendant (Bakare) has been released.”

Our correspondent, who posed as a relative of the defendant, spoke to the registrar on the telephone and she confirmed that the warrant was with her.

She said, “The magistrate has approved the bail. What is needed now is the money to facilitate his release from prison. The money would be used for transport and the prison would not release him for free. The distance between Ilaro and Agbara, to and fro, is far.”

The registrar became unsettled when our correspondent eventually revealed his identity.

Bakare described the three weeks he spent in the prison as hellish, claiming that he was not involved in the alleged crime.

“As I speak to you, my body still hitches badly for mosquito bites even though I was released about three weeks ago. I am still on medication. That place is horrible,” he added.

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