Sable Mining Case: Court Grants Onanuga Medical Leave

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Defendant Christopher Hayes Onanuga has been granted medical leave to travel to Nigeria and later to the U.S. between December 14 and January 14.

Questions abound whether he will abscond as GT Bank manager did recently

 There are reportedly growing fears amongst prosecution lawyers about the likelihood of  Christopher Onanuga, one of those accused in the Sable Mining US$950,000 alleged bribery case, who was granted permission to travel to Nigeria for medical purposes that he would jump bail as done by dismissed Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank) Liberia, Managing Director Ayodeji Bejide, also a Nigerian national.

Bejide, who was granted two weeks’ medical leave by the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice, is yet to return to stand trial for allegedly assaulting one of the bank’s staff, identified as Edward Freeman, who sustained serious cuts to his lip, on August 28, 2018, when the defendant hurled a calculator at the victim.

In the case of Onanuga, he was accused along with several other present and past public officials, including Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County in the Global Witness’ report  alleging that Sable Mining, a UK-based mining company, through its Liberian lawyer, Sen. Sherman of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, had advised the company that the only way to have the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County awarded to it without competitive bidding was to insert a provision in the revised Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Act.

The government alleges that Onanuga consulted, advised, facilitated and conspired with Sable Mining and Senator Sherman to induce public officials to violate the public trust during the amendment process of the PPCC Act to give undue advantage to the company for the Wologizi Mountain. Onanuga had initially denied the charges against him prior to his permission to travel for medical attention in the United States.

In the court’s permission letter addressed to Cllr. Neto Zarzar Lighe, of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, it said “I wish to inform you that the request contained in your letter addressed on December 7, relative to co-defendant Christopher Onanuga’s travel to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subsequently to the United States of America is hereby granted.”

It further said, “Your client is hereby granted permission to depart Liberia for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subsequently to the United States of America, on December 14 and to return to the Republic of Liberia on Monday, January 14, 2019.”

As to whether Onanuga will return or not, it depends on how concrete his base in Liberia is. Onanuga is the founder and CEO of Kool FM radio station in Paynesville, as well as the chairperson of the National Excellence Awards Secretariat, which produces the National Excellence Awards. While Onanuga could not be reached for comment, the Daily Observer reliably learnt that he was in talks earlier this year to sell a majority stake in Kool FM to an investor.

In Bejide’s case, Magistrate Kennedy had at the time  said his court decided to grant the medical leave to the defendant because the defendant had filed a valid criminal insurance bond of US$ 50,000 by the Insurance Company of Africa that far exceeded the actual amount of US$1,000 bond needed as the legal requirement for the crime of aggravated assault.

Bejide was charged on August 28, 2018, by the police and forwarded to the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice for prosecution based on the complaint by victim Freeman, an employee of the bank who alleged that he was assaulted by Bejide while at work at the bank’s 13th Street branch office.

Police claimed that during the investigation conducted with defendant Bejide it was gathered that on August 28 at the hour of 8:30 am, the victim and the accused were involved in an “investigation which established that the allegation levied against defendant Bejide is truth beyond all reasonable doubt, as evidenced by the injury on the victim’s lips and the voluntary admission of defendant Bejide himself during the course of the investigation,” the police charge sheet said.

Ayodeji Bejide, ex-Managing Director, GT Bank Liberia, was allowed by a judge to seek medical care outside Liberia and has yet to return to face charges of aggravated assault.

The government has alleged that Onanuga consulted, advised, facilitated and conspired with Sable Mining and Senator Sherman to induce public officials to violate the public trust during the amendment process of the PPCC Act to give undue advantage to the company for the Wologizi Mountain. Onanuga had initially denied the charges against him prior to his permission for medical attention in the United States.

In the court’s permission letter addressed to Cllr. Neto Zarzar Lighe, of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, it said “I wish to inform you that the request contained in your letter addressed on December 7, relative to co-defendant Christopher Onanuga’s travel to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subsequently to the United States of America is hereby granted.”

It further said, “Your client is hereby granted permission to depart Liberia for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subsequently to the United States of America, on December 14 and to return to the Republic of Liberia on Monday, January 14, 2019.”

As to whether Onanuga will return or not, it depends on how concrete his base in Liberia is. Onanuga is the founder and CEO of Kool FM radio station in Paynesville, as well as the chairperson of the National Excellence Awards Secretariat, which produces the National Excellence Awards. While Onanuga could not be reached for comment, the Daily Observer reliably learnt that he was in talks earlier this year to sell a majority stake in Kool FM to an investor.

In Bejide’s case, Magistrate Kennedy then said his court decided to grant the medical leave to the defendant because the defendant had filed a valid criminal insurance bond of US$ 50,000 by the Insurance Company of Africa that far exceeded the actual amount of US$1,000 bond needed as the legal requirement for the crime of aggravated assault.

Bejide was charged on August 28, 2018, by the police and forwarded to the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice for prosecution based on the complaint by victim Freeman, an employee of the bank who alleged that he was assaulted by Bejide while at work at the bank’s 13th Street branch office.

Police claimed that during the investigation conducted with defendant Bejide it was gathered that on August 28 at the hour of 8:30 am, the victim and the accused were in an “investigation which established that the allegation levied against defendant Bejide is truth beyond all reasonable doubt, as evidenced by the injury on the victim’s lips and the voluntary admission of defendant Bejide himself during the course of the investigation,” the police charge sheet said.

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

4 COMMENTS

  1. He hit him on the lip. why is this such a big case when others are killing and it is nothing. Look at the big picture in Liberia there are far more important cases that merit recognition. Why are we harping on a busted lip as a major case ? why $50,000 for a busted lip when there are murders going on in Libiera and killings of innocent people. There are rapes going on , aggravated assault, armed robbers killing and we are worried about a busted lip? Look at the girls raped in the case of the white American woman in Monrovia who had an agency. Did she go to jail? no. Because she is white. But you want to Jail a Nigerian. racist. those are important than a busted lip. please

  2. This new phenomenon of courts in Liberia letting loose defendants to travel abroad for “medical leave,” needs to be clamped down upon by whatever the judiciary oversight. This is complete nonsense! Especially when some of these defendants have no incentive to return for trial, like the case of this GT Bank manager. Don’t Liberian courts rely on precedents anymore as advisories in making these common sense determination? Reason why this new phenomenon needs to be investigated to ensure the judges and lawyers involved are not shortchanging the judicial system for whatever the personal benefits. And could this same privilege be granted to a typical Joe blow who is a defendant, or is incarcerated and in need of “medical attention” outside the locale or jurisdiction of the case? If not, then this phenomenon is not fair, equitable or just across the board and therefore must stop!

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