AN ABUJA High Court has ruled that a statement which implicated the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar in a N10M bribery issue was freely made by his Personal Assistant and Protocol Officer, Ali Gambo Abdullahi. The court dismissed the claim of Abdullahi that the implicating statement he made in 2013 was done under duress, intimidation and inducement from the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the course of his interrogation in a petition on N10M bribe demand. Abdullahi had in the statement made in September 2013 named his boss, Umar as the beneficiary of the alleged bribe said to have been offered by a former Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service Mr. Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi who was standing trial on false asset declaration at the CCT. He claimed that the money was paid into his bank account with Zenith Bank by the ex-customs Chief and that it was withdrawn the same day for his principal. But during trial for a criminal offence, Abdullahi recanted and asked the Judge not to admit the statement as exhibit on the ground that it was made under duress, intimidation and inducement of job and money offer by the EFCC operatives if only he would implicate the CCT boss. Justice Chizoba Oji in her ruling in a trial within trial conducted to confirm the voluntariness of the statement held that from the totality of evidence before her, there was nothing to suggest that the statement was made under duress or any form of intimidation as claimed by the defendant. The judge held that the EFCC operatives who testified during the trial proved beyond reasonable doubt that the statement was made by the defendant on his own volition in an open room. Justice Oji described as an afterthought, the claim by the IdahosaCCT boss aide that he acted under coercion and cajole to make the implicating statement adding that it was established as a fact that he voluntarily breezed into the EFCC office to make the statement and was even granted bail in his personal recognizance. “I have carefully considered the evidence of both parties in this trial within trial and I have no problem in coming to the conclusion that the latter claim of the defendant that he made the statement under duress is a mere after thought not believable.“I hereby over-rule his objection to the admission of the statement as exhibit and I hereby admit the statement as exhibit P5. The Judge then fixed March 27 for continuation of trial of the defendant. The EFCC had asked the Abuja high court to admit as exhibit the statement which implicated Umar in a N10m bribery scandal. The anti-graft agency insisted that the statement that implicated Umar was made by his Personal Assistant and Protocol Officer Ali Gambo Abdullahi on 12th August, 2013 at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja when the alleged bribe was paid into his account. EFCC made the request in its final submissions at the conclusion of trial within trial conducted by Justice Chizoba Oji following the counter claim by Abdullahi that he implicated his boss in the N10m bribery issue under duress and inducement by EFCC. The anti-graft agency had in its written argument presented by its counsel Mr. Andrew Akoja informed Justice Oji that the CCT boss Personal Assistant was invited by EFCC following a petition by a retired Customs Comptroller Mr. Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi that he channeled the bribe through the defendant to the CCT boss. The counsel had informed the court that the defendant freely visited the EFCC and voluntarily made the statement that the bribe money was benefited by Umar and was allowed home the same day. Akoja had also said that defendant in his evident in court never claimed that the bribe money was falsely or wrongly paid into his account by the Customs Comptroller in all the statements he made to EFCC. The EFCC counsel argued that the retraction statement made much later by the accused to purportedly exonerate his boss was an afterthought that should not be given probate value by the court. “All the witnesses of EFCC before this court testified to the fact that the statement of the accused was freely made in an open interrogation room.” “The accused alleged that he made the statement under duress and inducement for job but in spite of the fact that the burden and onus to prove his allegations shifted on his head, he has not called any witness or discharged the burden in any form.” “The accused never told this Honourable Court that he was tortured to make his statement. He never denied in this court that no money was paid into his account or even paid in error. A suspect who personally walks into EFCC to make statement and was allowed home the same day cannot be the same to claim that he was tortured, beaten, influenced or induced without evidence.” “It is on record that two directors from the tribunal came to the EFCC office to bail the accused when the need arose.” “Our position is that the statement was freely made, voluntarily made and it complied with the rules of the Evidence Act and we urge the court to admit it and reject the afterthought of the accused that the bribe money was paid to him to cater for his sick father.” Counsel to the defendant Mr. Francis Atta was scolded by the court for his failure to prepare a written argument when the court ordered parties to do so. Atta however adopted the testimony of the defendant as his argument and urged the court to hold that the statement was not freely made but done under duress and inducement.

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