A prosecution witness, Usman Zakari, on Wednesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that he was competent to investigate a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, charged with N650 million fraud.
Mrs Akinjide is standing trial alongside a People’s Democratic Party chieftain, Olarenwaju Otti, and Ayo Adeseun.
They had pleaded not guilty to the charge slammed on them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and were granted bail.
At the commencement of trial, the defence counsel had objected to the admissbility of the statement of the first accused on the grounds that same was not voluntarily obtained.
Consequently, the court ordered a trial-within-trial to test the voluntariness of the statement obtained by the EFCC.
Mr Zakari, an operative of EFCC and first prosecution witness in the trial-within-trial, was cross-examined on Wednesday.
Rotimi Oyedepo appeared for EFCC, while Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Micheal Lana, Akinola Oladeji, appeared for the first, second and third accused.
Conducting his cross-examination, Mr Ayorinde, counsel to Akinjide, asked the witness: “Did you say you supervised the writing of the statement of the first defendant?
Witness: ”Yes I did.”
Ayorinde: ”So, you just gave the defendant the writing materials and watched her as she wrote?”
Mr Zakari told the court that when the defendant visited the commission on August 9, 2016, she came in the company of a lawyer and her husband.
He said she was interviewed for 20 minutes in respect of the N650 million and she volunteered a statement thereafter.
The witness said that Mrs Akinjide specifically volunteered to reduce her interview into writing.
Ayorinde asked: ”So, after the 20 minutes interrogation, did she have a right to walk out of the commission?”
Witness: ”That is not correct, she had no right to walk out.”
Ayorinde: ”Was the first accused put under arrest after the 20 minutes of interview?”
Witness: ”That is not correct.”
Mr Ayorinde asked if Mrs Akinjide would have been arrested if she had attempted to walk away.
Witness: ”She never made any attempt to walk out, so I would not know what I would have done.”
He told the court that after the interview, the accused was ‘cautioned’ before she began to volunteer her statement in writing.
Mr Ayorinde asked if the commission had a police manual for interrogation and who determined the manner of interrogation.
Witness: ”The commission had no police manual and the manner of interrogation was determined by the team leader.”
On who the team leader was and whether he had any training, the witness told the court that he, Usman Zakari, was the team leader.
Mr Zakari clarified that the commission did not interrogate suspects, ”but conducted interviews”.
He told the court that he had undergone training on suspect processing, handling and care which entails how to relate with complainants and suspects.
“I joined the commission in 2004, and I have been trained in suspect processing, handling and care.
“I have been trained and retrained both internationally and locally in respect of suspects handling and care as well as suspects processing.
“Internationally, I obtained my training from the National Crime Agency (NCA) United Kingdom and locally, I acquired a training in Nigeria from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in June 2015,” he said.
Ayorinde: ”Apart from yourself, how many people were present when the first defendant was writing her statement?”
Witness: ”I was present together with Tosin Owobo, Oluwatoyin Ige, the husband of the first defendant as well as her lawyer, Mr Williams.”
Justice Hassan adjourned until May 22 for continuation of trial.
At the last adjournment on May 9, the court had refused an application for an overseas medical trip of the third accused (Otti).
The judge refused the application on the grounds that the available records did not show that she had ever been to the U.S. for medical reasons.
The accused were alleged to have received monies from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 General Elections.
The money was part of the 115 million dollars allegedly disbursed by Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential Election.