Lagos – A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday told a Federal High Court, Lagos, that an aide to Femi Fani-Kayode, Mr Ojo Agbor, was invited only once by the commission for interrogation contrary to claims that he was coerced.
The witness, Mr Shuaib Umar, was giving evidence at the resumed trial of Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, who is standing trial on charges of money laundering.
Led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr Festus Keyamo, the witness, an Investigating Police Officer, had told the court that Agbor had voluntarily tendered a statement to the EFCC without any form of coercion.
“This is in clear contrast to Agbor’s earlier testimony before the court that he was beaten and cajoled to make a statement.’’
Umar, speaking under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), maintained that the commission only invited Agbor once.
Following this statement, Adedipe urged the witness to read out the first paragraph of Agbor’s statement to the commission in the open court.
The first paragraph of Agbor’s statement read in part: “In addition to my earlier statement on Dec. 26, 2008…’’
At this point, Adedipe then asked Umar to state unequivocally that Agbor’s visit to the EFCC was more than once.
Adedipe said: “I put it to you that you are not speaking the truth.’’
Umar:“And I put it to you that I am not lying.’’
At this point, the trial judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, urged the prosecution to caution its witness to observe court etiquette and warned that the witness might be committed for contempt.
Keyamo tendered an unreserved apology to the court and the defence counsel and that he he had one more witness to call in the trial.
The judge adjourned the case until July 10 for continuation of trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that at the last adjournment on May 14, Agbor had accused the EFCC of coercing him into making a statement at the commission.
Agbor recounted that a team of policemen from the EFCC had arrested and detained him for four days, and also forced him to make a statement suggesting that the accused personally gave him the money.
He told the court that even when he informed the police that the money was given to him by the property manager of Fani-kayode, they slapped him and promised to make him an accomplice if he failed to cooperate with them.
He said: “I was afraid of their threats, and so, I had no choice but to cooperate.’’
NAN also reports that Fani-Kayode was first arraigned sometime in December 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47-count charge.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and Justice Mohammed granted him bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties in like sum.
Fani-Kayode was re-arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako following the transfer of Mohammed from the Lagos Division.
The accused was again re-arraigned before Justice Ajumogobia on Feb. 11, 2013 after the transfer of Murtala-Nyako.
On March 6, he was re-arraigned before Ajumogobia following the amendment of the charges from 47-count to 40-count.
In the charge, the accused was alleged to have transacted funds exceeding N500,000 without going through a financial institution.
The accused was also alleged to have accepted cash payments to the tune of N100 million, while he held sway as Minister of Aviation and Minister of Culture and Tourism respectively.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene the provisions of Sections 15(1), (a),(b), (c) and (d) and 15 (2), (a),(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004. (NAN)