A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for an alleged fraud of N650m, on Monday disowned five extrajudicial statements which the anti-graft agency said she ‘purportedly’ made.
Akinjide through her counsel, Mr Olusegun Williams, objected to the move by the EFCC who sought to tender the statements in evidence against Akinjide.
Akinjide is standing trial alongside, Senator Ayo Adeseun and Olanrewaju Otiti, before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Akinjide’s counsel contended that the statements were obtained from his client under duress and inducement.
He urged the court to order a trial-within-trial to test the voluntariness of the statements.
The two other defendants also disowned their statements.
Their lawyers, Mr Michael Lana and Akinola Oladeji respectively, equally argued that their clients’ statements were not voluntary.
“The 3rd defendant also made statements to the EFCC and we shall be contending that the statements were made under inducement and subsequently threat of incarceration.
I will, therefore, align myself with the position of my learned colleagues for the 2nd and 3rd defendants,” Akinola Oladeji told the presiding Judge, Justice Muslim Hassan who thereafter ordered a trial within a trial.
During the trial-within-trial on Monday, the EFCC called the leader of its Special Task Force 4, which investigated Akinjide and others, Usman Zakari, as a witness.
Led in evidence by the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, Zakari said he was surprised at the claim by Akinjide’s lawyer that the ex-minister was induced to make the five statements she made to the EFCC.
“I’m surprised. The 1st defendant (Akinjide), when she reported to our office, she came along with Barrister Olusegun Williams and her husband. I was the one that interviewed the 1st defendant.
During the course of the interview, the payment receipt of the N650m, which the defendant signed at a new generation bank, was shown to her and she volunteered to react in writing regarding the payment receipt.
There and then, I instructed my subordinate, Tosin Owobo, to caution her. And I read the cautionary words to her, which she understood.”
Zakari said after writing the statement Akinjide appended her signature after which her lawyer, Williams also signed, stating that the statements were obtained from Akinjide in his presence.
He said it was after this that she was granted an administrative bail, with her husband standing as the surety.
“The statements of the 1st defendant of the 9th of August, 2016, August 25, 2016, 21st November 2016, December 2, 2016, and December 15, 2016, were voluntarily given by the 1st defendant; also, the statements are devoid of threat, inducement and promise,” Zakari said.
He added that after the statements were obtained neither Akinjide nor Williams lodged a complaint of any foul play with the EFCC authorities.
The court admitted the statements, Akinjide’s bail application and bail bond as exhibits for identification.
Akinjide, Adeseun and Otiti are being tried on 24 charges of money laundering.
The EFCC accused them of collecting N650m from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
In the charges, the EFCC claimed that Akinjide gave a cash sum of N107.4m to Otti and N134.4m to Adeseun out of the N650m on March 26, 2015.
She also allegedly gave N26.5m cash to one Ayoka Lawani; N56.4m to one Alhaji Kunmi Mustapha; N28.6m to one Honourable Muraina Ajibola; N16m to one Honourable Yinka Taiwo and N10.7m to one Prince Ayuba.
Plans for plea bargain between both parties, however, fell through as they could not reach an agreement.
The judge thereafter adjourned till April 23 and 24, 2018 for the continuation of trial.