YOLA, Nigeria (Reuters) - A former Nigerian state governor sentenced to five years in prison for corruption this month has been granted bail on medical grounds pending his appeal, his lawyer said on Tuesday, though prison officials queried the basis of the ruling.
James Bala Ngillari, governor of northeastern Adamawa state for seven months until May 2015, was convicted of awarding a contract for the procurement of 25 vehicles at a cost of 167 million naira ($548,891) without following due process.
Convictions of serving and past government officials remain rare in Nigeria even though President Muhammadu Buhari made a crackdown on corruption a central pillar of his government’s approach after taking office in May 2015.
A high court in Yola granted Ngillari bail on Monday over health concerns, Obed Wadzani, his lawyer, told reporters, after a prison medical officer submitted a letter saying the former governor’s incarceration had caused high blood pressure.
The letter, the only evidence to support Ngillari’s release, recommended he be sent to a hospital in the United Arab Emirates.
Wadzani declined to say whether Ngillari had been released.
Nigeria’s anti-corruption watchdog and prison service questioned the validity of the evidence backing the bail judgement.
“I have been directed to query the officers involved,” said Peter Tenkwa, the state commander of prison services, adding that the prison service’s legal department needed to review the bail ruling.
Ngillari originally took office as the state’s deputy governor in 2012 but rose to the top post in 2014 following the impeachment of his predecessor. He served until the current Adamawa state governor won an election in 2015.
Reporting by Emmanuel Ande; writing by Paul Carsten; editing by Mark Heinrich