FCMB named as EFCC, Fani-Kayode trade words over criminal charge

The on-going trial of former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, assumed another dimension on Tuesday when The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) debunked a claim by a witness that he was forced to lie.



The witness, Ojo Agbor, had told the Federal High Court in Lagos on May 14 that EFCC’s officials beat him up and detained him, forcing him to write a false statement to nail the ex-minister otherwise he would be charged along with Fani-Kayode.
Agbor said someone else gave him various amounts of money to pay into Fani-Kayode’s account, but that EFCC asked him to write that it was the former minister who gave him the money.

“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 had said.

But at the resumed hearing on Tuesday, an EFCC investigator, Shuaibu Umar, who handled the case, said Agbor was never forced to make the statement.

He said he discovered that lodgements were made by various individuals into Fani-Kayode’s bank account, including by one Mark Ndifreke and Agbor.

According to him, Agbor was invited to make an explanation on the monies he paid into Fani-Kayode’s account, adding that he was cautioned before he made the statement.

“He came to our office on his own, voluntarily. It’s not true that Agbor was lured to EFCC, beaten, handcuffed and detained.
“It’s not true that he was beaten up and tortured to write a statement or that he was not allowed to speak to his wife who just had a baby,” he said.

Umar tendered Agbor’s statement, which was admitted in evidence.
During cross examination, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), asked Umar how many times Agbor came to the EFCC.
The witness said Agbor came once, and made his statement the same day.

There was mild drama as Adedipe asked Umar to read the first paragraph of Agbor’s statement.
The paragraph says in part: “In addition to my earlier statement on 26th of December, 2008…”

At this point, Adedipe asked Umar to admit that Agbor visited the EFCC more than once.

Umar said he was not aware of the other visits, adding he was only aware that Agbor visited once.

When Adedipe sought to “put it to” Umar that he was not saying the truth, the witness responded: “I put it to you that I’m not lying.”

At this point, prosecution counsel, Mr Festus Keyamo, sprang to his feet, apologising on the witness’ behalf, saying Umar was unaware of courtroom ethics which bars a witness from exchanging words with a lawyer.

The trial judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who was visibly annoyed, said there would be “fire” should the witness use such an expression again, indicating the witness could be sent to prison for contempt.
She adjourned for about 20 minutes to enable Keyamo “caution” his witness on how to speak in court.
When the judge returned, Adedipe said Agbor was kept in EFCC custody for four days, from December 26 to December 30, 2008.
But Umar insisted that Agbor was never held beyond a day, and was indeed granted bail on self-recognition, being a civil servant.

Keyamo said he had one more witness, which is Ndifreke, but that he had been evading service of the court summons to testify.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia said she would not issue a bench warrant until she is convinced that Ndifreke is deliberately avoiding being served.
Fani-Kayode is standing trial on an amended 40-count charges of money laundering.
The former minister was said to have laundered about N100,219,500 by paying them into his personal account through an associate.
For instance, EFCC said that on or about November 22, 2006, Fani-Kayode made a financial transaction exceeding N500,000, which was not done through a financial institution.
It said he accepted cash payment of N10 million, which was carried in cash to First Inland Bank, Plc, Apapa Branch (now First City Monument Bank Plc) through his close associate, Mark Saviour Ndifreke, said to be at large.
The money, EFCC alleged, was paid into Fani-Kayode’s investment account for 90 days, an offence contrary to Section 15(1)(d) and punishable under Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.
Other counts stated that he carried out some of the transactions exceeding N500,000 while also serving as Minister of Culture and Tourism. Ndifreke was also said to have helped him pay the money into his personal account.
He allegedly committed the offences between August 2006 and May 2007.
One of the counts stated that on December 5, 2006, while aviation minister, he accepted cash payment of N2.1million which was paid into his personal account numbered 103450252601 with First Inland Bank Plc (now First City Monument Bank).
Fani-Kayode pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia adjourned till July 10 and directed Keyamo to file a further affidavit within seven days on why Ndifreke should be arrested.