A prosecution witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Shuaibu Umar, Tuesday June 24, told the Federal High Court, Ikoyi that the testimonies of a witness named Ojo Agbor, who testified in the trial of a former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode for alleged money laundering on the 14th of May before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, were nothing but deliberate lies.
It will be recalled that Ojo Agbor, before Justice Ajumogobia on the 14th of May at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi , alleged that on the 26th of November 2006, some Mopol (mobile police officers) arrested him and took his car key while doing a transaction in a bank .
Agbor claimed that he was given a dirty slap when he demanded to know where they (mobile police officers) were taking him to.
His words: “One of them landed me a slap and said I was a thief. They took me to EFCC’s office, locked me in a room, and asked me to tell them what I know about Fani-Kayode.
“I told them it was one Mr Kola that gave me the money I deposited into my boss’ account.
“They then told me that I should write that it was Fani-Kayode, who gave me the money to deposit. They threatened to make me an accomplice if I didn’t write that Fani-Kayode gave me the money. My Lord, I had no option than to write,” Agbor said.
Shuaibu Umar, an operative of the EFCC who was brought to court as witness by prosecuting counsel, Festus Keyamo, said Tuesday that Mr. Ojo Agbor’s claims were unfounded and blatant lies.
Examining the witness, Keyamo asked Umar what he knew about the money laundering case that involves the former Aviation Minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode:
“Do you know the accused [referring to Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode who sat directly opposite Umar] person?” asked Keyamo.
“Yes,” Umar replied.
“Tell this court your designation in the EFCC and what you know about Mr. Ojo Agbor?,” asked Keyamo.
“I am an investigative officer. I was part of the team that investigated and analysed a bank statement involving the accused. I discovered that lodgements were made by various individuals to that account. One Mr. Mark Ndifreke and Ojo Agbor made lodgements to the account.
“We decided to invite him [Agbor] to our office.
“He came on his own to our office voluntarily. When he came we showed him the bank statement where he made the lodgement.
“We gave him word of caution.
“He was granted bail on self recognition; he was not arrested,” Umar said.
Justice Ajumogobia, who was listening with rapt attention immediately cut in and queried Umar: “Is he a suspect that you granted him bail?” But before Umar could respond to the Judge’s question, defence counsel, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) abruptly rose up from his seat and said: “Agbor is not in trial here your Highness.”
Keyamo, who seemed not comfortable with Umar’s testimonies, told Umar in a rather loud voice:
“Agbor has said he was arrested, he was beaten, hand-cuffed, detained for days, he was not allowed to speak to his family and he was forced to write a statement.
“This is my evidence to counter their claim.”
“No! It was not true. We did not arrest nor beat him. He was not detained,” Umar averred.
“He was allowed to speak to his family and we did not force him to write a statement,” Umar further said.
When cross-examining the witness, Mr. Shuabu Umar, defence counsel, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) demanded to see the statement that was written by Ojo Agbor when he was interrogated by the EFCC.
Adedipe, who asked that a copy of the same statement be given to Umar who was standing in the witness box, drew Umar’s attention to the first paragraph of the statement and asked him to read it out.
Umar, who confirmed to the court that he actually appended his signature to the statement which was dated 29/12/2008, did not waste time in reading the first paragraph of the statement but was abruptly asked to pause by the defence counsel.
“In addition to my earlier statement on the 26th of December, 2008 …,” read Umar but stopped by Adedipe, drawing the attention of Justice Ajumogobia to the fact that there was indeed an earlier statement written by Agbor apart from the one that was being read by Umar and that Umar should be made to produce it.
Adedipe, who put it to Umar that there were two statements written by Agbor and not one statement as he [Umar] had earlier claimed, subsequently accused Umar of concealing the truth.
“Where is the first statement ?” asked Adedipe.
“Agbor came to our office just once. I can’t remember the date he made his statement,” Umar retorted.
A vividly angry Adedipe could not but challenge Umar as he said: “He [Agbor] had made an earlier statement. I put it to you that you came to this court to lie! ”
Drama, however, ensued in the court room when the witness furiously talked back at Adedipe saying at the peak of his voice: “I put to you too that you’re lying.”
Justice Ajumogobia, who patiently watched the row in the court room, expressed her annoyance at Umar’s display of disrespect and rudeness towards Barrister Adedipe. She however warned him to caution himself not to repeat such attitude otherwise she would “put fire on him.”
Prosecuting counsel, Keyamo immediately sprung up to apologise to the Judge for the unruly attitude of his witness.
The Judge, after returning from what looked like a 30-minute recess, asked Keyamo about the whereabouts of Ojo Agbor who was supposed to be in court but the latter said that all attempts in bringing him to court proved abortive. According to Keyamo, Agbor had, since his last appearance at the court on the 14th of May, been at large.
Keyamo also said he filed an affidavit before the court to show that one witness in the name Mark Saviour Ndifreke whose name “frequently shows” in many of the charges has severally been summoned to court to testify but it “seems he is deliberately evading summons”. “We have gone to his residence severally but no one seems to know his whereabouts,” said Keyamo.
“We can file further affidavit. This witness has been a witness we have been looking for. He has been running from pillar to post. He has been a prime witness in this matter,” said Keyamo.
The Judge however asked Keyamo and Adedipe to file a further affidavit and serve it within the next seven days.
The Judge, whose expression looked like “let’s-get-this-whole-matter-over-with” after over two hours of going back and forth with little or no headway, adjourned the next hearing of the case to the 10th of July, and said with a huge sense of finality that “whether you [Keyamo and Adedipe] get the [prime] witness or not, the case will be closed come 10th of July, 2014.”