By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Department of State Service, DSS, on Tuesday, narrated before an Abuja High Court at Maitama, how Justice Adeniyi Ademola who is facing corruption charges, stashed foreign and local currencies inside Ghana-must-go bags at his official residence at the Apo Legislative Quarters Abuja.
Justice Ademola was among seven superior court Judges that were arrested after a sting operation the DSS conducted between October 7 and 8, 2016.
He is answering to a 16-count criminal charge alongside his wife, Olabowale and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi.
At the resumed hearing on the matter on Tuesday, coordinator of the DSS sting operation, Mr. Ike Onuoha, who testified as the second prosecution witness, PW-2, told the court that the Judge attempted to deceive operatives that went to search his home by lying that he was out of town.
Led in evidence by government lawyer, Mr. Shegu Jegede, the witness, said the operatives later found the Judge where he hid inside his bedroom.
Onuoha said his team was briefed to search the judge’s residence based on petitions and information alleging that he was in possession incriminating materials.
He told the trial court that when his team arrived at Ademola’s residence with a duly signed search warrant, the security guard told them that only the cook who was simply identified as Ken, had keys into the building.
According to the witness, “Ken eventually came and told us the judge was out of town. We then asked him to call the judge on his phone. We did so because we had reasons to believe that the judge was in fact at home.
“When we entered the premises, we called on Ken to call the judge with his mobile phone. Ken called the judge severally but he refused to pick.
“Much later, the judge sent a text message that he was not in town. After repeated calls, he switched off his phone. At that point, we had no option than to force open the main door.
“When we entered, we saw Justice Ademola in the master’s bedroom upstairs in his night wears. That was few minutes after 12 midnight.”
He said following a request by the Judge, waited for the arrival of his lawyer, Mr. Agi, SAN (3rd defendant), who after a brief discussion with Justice Ademola, gave them the nod to search the house.
He said: “As we continued our search on the ground floor, we encountered a locked bedroom. We requested for the keys, but we were not given.
“We then had no option but to force open the door. Inside the bedroom, we saw a locked wardrobe which we also had to force open when the keys were not made available to us.
“Inside the wardrobe, we found a Ghana-must-go bag containing various N1,000 denomination notes to the tune of N39.5million after counting it on the spot.
“We also found two black pump action rifles and 35 live cartridges of ammunition. We also found a silver-coloured flash drive”.
The PW-2 further told the court that they found another locked room where they recovered the sum of N8.5m in N1,000 denomination inside a black and white medium sized bag locked up in a wardrobe.
He said thereafter they found “in the master’s bedroom, in an open wardrobe, a black bag where we found the sum of N6m, 121,179 US dollars, 4,400 Euros, 80 pounds, 1,010 Indian Rupees. We also recovered six ATM cards, eight cheque books, eight deposit slips for various banks, two firearm licence – one for Honourable Justice A.R. Muhammed, the other for Honourable Justice Adeniyi Ademola. We also recovered two Apple ipads.”
Meantime, under cross-examination, the witness stressed that licenses for such Fmfirearms are renewable, saying the Nigerian Police Force has the responsibility of both issuance and renewal of firearms.
He said his investigation did not extend to interviewing Hon. Justice A.R. Muhammed to ascertain the reason why a gun is licensed in his name and found in the residence of Justice Ademola.
Onuoha said he was not aware that ordering the release of detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu from DSS’ custody by Justice Ademola, was the major reason that prompted his arrest and trial.
He insisted that the operation was as a result of petitions, intelligence and information gathered by the security agency.
The witness however declined to disclose the source of the said intelligence report, saying “sources of our information are classified.”
Trial Justice Jude Okeke subsequently adjourned the matter till Wednesday at the instance of the prosecution who informed the court that some of the witnesses were being threatened.
The prosecution counsel said the development made it difficult for him to reach most of the proposed witnesses.
Aside bank officials, among those scheduled to mount the witness box include the Secretary of the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court were Justice Ademola was serving before his ordeal commenced.
FG alleged that Ademola who is a grandson to a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, had in the discharge of his official duties, received bribe from Agi to the tune of N38.5million and perverted the course of Justice.
Ademola was alleged to have received the bribe money from the SAN through a Guarantee Trust Bank, GTB, account number 201/110160/1/1/0, operated by his wife who was the former Head of Service in Lagos State.
FG said its investigations revealed that the illicit deal occurred between March 11 and 26, 2015, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the FCT High Court.
The court earlier admitted into evidence, invoice and receipt of a BMW Saloon 320i valued at N8.5 Million, which Agi, SAN, purchased from Coscharis Motors Limited on January 5, 2015 and handed over to Justice Ademola’s son, Ademide.
The NJC had since asked the embattled Judge to step down from the bench pending conclusion of his trial.