A defence witness in the trial of former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Bello Adoke, has told the Federal High Court in Abuja that an operative of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) threatened him to implicate former President Goodluck Jonathan in the alleged money laundering case filed against him and the former AGF.
The witness, Aliyu Abubakar, who is also a co-defendant in the trial, told the judge, Inyang Ekwo, on Monday that one of the anti-graft agency’s lawyer, Bala Sanga, also threatened him to rope in Mr Adoke.
He said this while being led in evidence by his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The anti-graft agency is prosecuting Mr Adoke who was AGF during Mr Jonathan’s presidency between 2010 and 2015 alongside a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar, on a 14-count charge.
The EFCC alleged, among others, in the charges that Mr Adoke had in August 2013, in Abuja, accepted a cash payment of the dollar equivalent of N300 million from Mr Aliyu, and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended).
While Mr Abubakar was also accused of accepting a cash payment of the sum of $4 million from Faman Holdings Limited, through one Abdulhakeem Uthman Mustapha, in September 2013, the prosecution told the court that Mr Adoke, made structured cash payments in tranches into his Unity Bank Plc Account No. 0020153263.
Aminu Lawal, the second prosecution witness in the trial-within-trial, had on May 10 said Mr Abubakar was neither compelled to make statements nor induced to implicate others in the course of the investigation.
Mr Lawal was one of the investigators who took the defendant’s statements on December 31, 2019 and on January 6, 2020.
But at Tuesday’s proceedings, Mr Abubakar told the judge that the extra-judicial statements he made on December 31, 2019 and on January 6, 2020 were made under duress.
He said upon EFCC’s invitation on December 31, 2019, a former prosecutor in the case, Mr Sanga, threatened to detain him if he declined to make extra-judicial statements to implicate Messrs Jonathan and Adoke.
Mr Abubakar said Mr Sanga introduced himself as the new prosecutor in the case, informing him that there was evidence showing that he (Mr Abubakar) gave the sum of 20 million dollars to Mr Adoke.
In addition, Mr Abubakar told the judge that Mr Sanga informed him that there was another evidence which revealed he (Mr Abubakar) gave the sum of 50 million dollars to Mr Jonathan.
“On the 31st December, 2019, my lawyer, Ahmed Audu, came to me and said one Ibrahim Ahmed from EFCC called him that they needed clarification from me about this case.
“I followed my lawyer to EFCC. When I got there, some of the EFCC’s staff like Ibrahim, Babangida and others came in that I must give a confessional statement.
“They said that things have changed and somebody has to record me (on video), that his name is Bala Sanga.
“He introduced himself as the new prosecutor in this case. He thanked me and said I should continue to cooperate with them and that they will help me if I continue to cooperate with them.
“He then asked me questions. He asked my lawyer to write for me and I said no that I will not make any more statement because I had already made statements which are with them.
“He said if I don’t, they will detain me,” Mr Abubakar said.
He said due to the fact that it was festive period then, he had to succumb to the officer’s instruction.
“I realised the next day was January 1, 2020, that was why I decided that they should write for me,” Mr Abubakar narrated.
Speaking on his experience at EFCC’s office, he said: “That day we went to the EFCC and they ask us to come the second day. Bala Sanga called me to one side that Alhaji, I want to help you in this case.
“He (Mr Sanga) asked how close I am to Adoke. He said you have to sacrifice somebody to be alive.
“He said there is evidence before him which he will show me at the right time; that he heard information that I gave Adoke 20 million dollars.
“I said what? How did it come?
“He said maybe because me and Mr Adoke are from the same place and that that was why I did not want to say anything.
“He also said that there is evidence before him that I gave Goodluck Jonathan 50 million dollars.
“He said if I did not agree to cooperate with him, he would charge me to court.
“So I said he should go ahead.”
Mr Abubakar said the argument by the anti-graft agency that nobody asked him to implicate anybody was untrue.
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Mr Abubakar’s cross-examination
Mr Adoke’s counsel, Kanu Agabi, SAN, while crossed-examining Mr Abubakar, asked the witness to reconfirm his statement that Mr Sanga told him to implicate Mr Adoke and he answered in affirmative.
EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket, during his cross-examination of Mr Abubakar, told the court that the witness’ statements of December 31, 2019, and January 6, 2020, were voluntarily made.
He said in the video clip played in the open court on the last adjourned date that Mr Abubakar did not protest against the directive by the agency’s officers on making the extra-judicial statements but the witness disagreed with Mr Uket.
Similarly, the second defence witness, Ahmed Audu, who is Mr Abubakar’s lawyer, testified in the matter after Mr Abubakar was discharged from witness box.
Mr Audu said he wrote the statement on Abubakar’s behalf on December 31, 2019.
“(Mr) Sanga came in that day and asked my name and I said Barrister Ahmed.
“He said he was the new prosecutor in this matter and he took over from one Aliyu Yusuf.
“He said he needed some clarifications from us and my client rejected because he had written a number of statements over this matter.
“Ibrahim said anything Sanga asked us to do we should do.
“While we were there, we heard Magu (former EFCC’s chairman’s) ‘siren’ coming in and I was even sweating and I felt guilty already.
“I ask Ibrahim why did he say that anything he ask us to do, do it.
“That was how we started the statement. That was what happened that day.
“After the statement, I ask Ahmed Ibrahim can I go with my client.
“They released us around 7:30 p.m. on that day and we protested that I will not sign and my client too.
“But they said we will not go until we sign. So they ask us to come on January 6, 2020,” he said.
After the cross-examination, the judge adjourned the matter until September 28 for hearing.
The EFCC insists that Mr Adoke made cash payments that exceeded the approved threshold amounts, outside a financial institution.
The anti-graft agency listed the companies accused of complicity in the about $1.1 billion fraud to include A Group Construction Company Limited; Rocky Top Resources Limited; Megatech Engineering Limited; Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.