A Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on Monday, April 23, 2018, heard that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, does not torture suspects brought to the commission’s office for interrogation.
An operative with the commission, Usman Zakari, stated this while testifying in a trial within a trial to determine if statements made by Jumoke Akinjide, a former Federal Capital Territory minister and her co-accused were voluntary.
Akinjide disowned five extrajudicial statements which she allegedly made at the EFCC. The other defendants – a former Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District Ayo Adeseun, and a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leader in Oyo State Chief Olarenwaju Otiti – also claimed they did not make their statements voluntarily.
Akinjide’s lawyer, Olusegun Williams opposed moves by EFCC’s counsel Rotimi Oyedepo to tender the statements in evidence on the basis that they were obtained under duress.
EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring to directly take possession of N650 million, which they reasonably ought to have known was part of proceeds of an unlawful act, and without going through a financial institution.
Justice Muslim Hassan had ordered a trial within a trial to determine if the statements were made voluntarily. Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel Nnaemeka Omenwa, who stood in for Oyedepo, Zakari, who heads the commission’s Special Task Force 4, said the defendants were not forced to make a statement.
He said when Adeseun reported at the commission on May 11, 2016, he agreed to make a statement only in his lawyer’s presence. “We had to wait for his lawyer to come before he made statements. The following day, the second defendant made a statement voluntarily in the presence of his lawyer,” he said.
The witness said Adeseun was granted bail but could not fulfill the conditions, following which EFCC obtained a remand order from a Magistrate Court.
“At the expiration of the remand warrant, he was released to his nephew, a pharmacist who bore the same surname,” Zakari said. Zakari said Otiti reported at EFCC on December 1, 2016, during which she was interviewed and cautioned.
“After the interview, she volunteered her statement in the presence of her friend. She was granted bail on self-cognizance. She asked to be allowed to go home so she could come up with a list of people she disbursed part of the N650 million to.
She was not detained. “In her next reporting date, she came with a list of beneficiaries to whom she disbursed over N90 million. “The second and third defendants’ statements were devoid of any promise, threat or duress.
“The statements were made in the Conference room. It’s a big hall, not a torture chamber. We don’t torture, we don’t threaten. We investigate economic and financial crimes, not violent crimes,” he said. Zakari said Adeseun also submitted a list of people he shared money to out of the money he received from Akinjide.
“As far as I can say, the second and third defendants volunteered their statements willingly,” the witness said. The commission said the defendants allegedly received the money from Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, named in the charge as being at large, ahead of the 2015 general elections.
The alleged offence contravenes the Money Laundering Act. The defendants pleaded not guilty when they were arraigned on January 16, 2018.
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