Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday granted former Head of Service (HoS), Stephen Oronsaye, who is currently standing trial for fraud and money laundering leave to travel abroad for routine medical check-up as well as the treatment of an undisclosed ailment.
Justice Kolawole gave the permission while ruling on an application brought by counsel to the first defendant, Kola Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), which sought the release of the international passport of the 1st defendant to enable him travel abroad for medical attention.
Oronsaye and five others are facing an amended 35-count charge bordering on corruption, fraud and money laundering, proffered against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The former HoS is being charged along with Osarenkhoe Afe, Fedrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, Cluster Logistic Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, and Drew Investment and Construction Company Limited.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, the court was supposed to commence hearing of a trial-within-trial, occasioned by an objection by counsel to the 2nd defendant, Oluwole Aladedoye, who had opposed attempt by the prosecution to tender as exhibit the extra judicial statement of the 2nd defendant.
But Okeaya-Inneh, who stood in for the lead counsel to the defence, Kanu Agabi, who was not in court, drew Justice Kolawole’s attention to an application dated December 11, 2015, and filed same day, in which the 1st defendant is praying the court for the release of his international passport to enable him travel abroad for medical attention.
Counsel to the prosecution, Leke Atolagbe, though did not opposed the application, admitted a further affidavit to that effect which was recently served him.
However, Justice Kolawole, before ruling on the application, noted that the 1st defendant was granted bail on self-recognition and as such, the court would need something to rely on before the release of the applicant’s international passport.
Responding, Atolagbe suggested that the court varied the bail condition to allow Oronsaye bring surety before the court or that the court gave some other conditions.
But Okeaya-Inneh was quick to remind the court that three other senior advocates, Kanu Agabi, Joe Agbi and himself, had earlier guaranteed the 1st defendant when he was admitted on bail and are willing to do so again even if it means “putting their career on the line.”
Kolawole, in his ruling, ordered that the international passport of the 1st defendant in the custody of the Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR) of Litigation be released to the lead counsel of the 1st defendant, adding that the 1st defendant takes advantage of the 2015/2016 summer recess which starts from July 12 to September 12, 2016, to attend to his medical needs.
The justice also advised the 1st defendant to get a certified copy of the proceedings that would allow him travel out, adding that Oronsaye, upon returning back to the country, must within 72 hours, return his international passport through his counsel.
At the commencement of the trial-within-trial, first prosecution witness (PW1), Roqayya Ibrahim, an operative with the EFCC, gave details surrounding the circumstances under which the statement of the 2nd defendants was taken.
Ibrahim said the 2nd defendant’s statement was taken in an open office that had about seven other investigators doing their various jobs simultaneously.
According to her, she first met the 2nd defendant on February24, 2011, when he was invited to the EFCC’s office for interrogation. She disclosed that she was assigned by her superior, Mustapha Dadanya, to take the 2nd defendant’s statement.
She further said before the accused started his statement around 2.20p.m., which lasted to about 6p.m., there was a brief interaction between then where she he was informed of the commission’s discoveries and banks statement showing payments made into the accounts of the 2nd defendant.
Ibrahim added that after the oral interview she wrote a cautionary word on the EFCC’s statement where the suspect can read. The witness disclosed further that she afterwards explained to the 2nd defendants that the purpose of the cautionary word was to show to them that his statement was not made under any threat, duress or inducement, adding that in the event the matter is charged to court, is statement would be used as evidence against him.
However during cross-examination by Aladedoye, counsel to the 2nd defendant, the witness could not give a particular time frame her interview with the 2nd defendant started before his statement was taken.
Also when Aladedoye tried to prove to the witness that because she was not around to have known what transpired between the 2nd defendants and Dadanya, the witness maintained that if anything had happened, she would know as they work as a team and she knows and trusts the professional abilities of her team members.
Responding, Justice Kolawole however ruled that having already adjourned the matter to June 28 and July 7 it would only be fair to allow the prosecution call on remaining witnesses.
The matter was thereby adjourned to June 28 for continuation of the trial-within-trial.