Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos will on May 31 rule whether to admit or not to admit as exhibit the extra judicial statements made by two former Ministers, Mrs Nenandi Usman and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mrs. Usman who is a former Minister of State for Finance and a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Fani-Kayode, are currently standing trial before the judge alongside one, Danjuma Yusuf, and a company, John Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited, on a 17-count charge of alleged N4.6 billion fraud.
The EFCC, in the charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, accused the defendants of conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
At the resumed hearing of the trial, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, sought to tender the extra judicial statements made by the defendants at the commission’s office on the allegations pressed on them as exhibit but the defendants’ counsel, the trio of Ferdinand Orbit (SAN), Norrison Quakers (SAN) and Clement Onwuenwunor, raised an objection on the admissibility of the documents as exhibits.
The defendants’ counsel raised objection on the admissibility of extra judicial statements Oyedepo sought to tender through the third prosecution witness, Shehu Shuiabu on the grounds that the documents were made in the absence of the defendants’ counsel at the commission’s office.
Counsel to Mrs Usman, Orbit, argued that apart from not being present when his client made the statement, it was made under duress and not voluntary by his client at EFCC office.
In his argument, Orbit relied on Section 7, Sub section 2 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.
Besides, Mrs Usman’s counsel told the court that there was nothing to show that the witness who was also the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in the case was the one who obtained the statement from his client.
According to the lawyer, the constitution, the Evidence Act and ACJA clearly states the procedure for obtaining statements from an accused but the prosecution failed to comply with it.
“I urged my Lord not to admit this documents as exhibits as EFCC did not comply with the law. I pray this honorable court not to admit it and mark it as rejected,” he said.
Counsel to other defendants aligned themselves with the argument, sighting a plethora of authorities to backed up the arguments
Quaker (SAN), further argued that failure to comply with ACJA in obtaining statements from the accused could not be ignore in the interest of justice.
Responding, the prosecuting counsel, faulted the arguments of all the defendants’ counsel. Oyedepo stated that all authorities cited by the defendants’ counsel were misinterpreted.
He urged the court to discountenance the submissions of the defence and admit the statements as exhibits.
However, after listening to submissions of all the parties, the judge adjourned till May 31 for ruling on the admissibility of the extra judicial statements as exhibits.