N754m NIMASA Theft: EFCC Coerced Me to Write Statement, Says Witness

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Akinwale Akintunde

Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba, a former Director with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) wednesday told an Ikeja High Court that he was coerced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to make statement while he was in the agency’s office.

Agaba, who is standing trial alongside a former Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi and others for allegedly stealing over N754,740,680 belonging to NIMASA, disclosed this in a trial within trial conducted before Justice Raliatu Adebiyi.

Captain Agaba, Akpobolokemi, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Adegboyega Sahib Olopoenia, and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited were arraigned on a 13-count charge bordering on stealing the money belonging to NIMASA.

The defendant, who was being led in evidence by his counsel, Edoka Onyeke, told the court how one Orji Chukwuma, an operative of the EFCC who interrogated him stylishly coerced him to write the statement he gave to the agency.
According Agaba, who is the 2nd defendant in the suit: “Chukwuma had a strategy of asking a question and before I write he asked me again what I intend to write and when I tell him he would refused and asked me to write it his own way.

“I complained and asked my lawyer to be present to guide me but he told me that this has nothing to do with my lawyer so I got so frustrated and decided to do it his own way.

“I am challenging this statement because I had never been in this kind of situation. Though I am not a lawyer but I knew from the way the whole thing went I was being coerced and this was not right.
“I was arrested on August 18, 2015 and released on the 20th at about 9:20p.m. I did not volunteer any statement to EFCC, I was told how to write and what to write even though they made me sign that I freely elected to write whatever had been written. I was even told that I was not the target so I should cooperate.

“The interrogator used all sorts of tactics to make me cooperate in doing it their own way, including delay tactics. While all these going on I took ill and my BP started rising. When I complained to them, they initially thought it was a ploy for me not to write but when the headache persisted, they detailed one Barrister Ekene to take me to their Clinic. When I got back from the Clinic, I was taken back to the conference and forced me to continue writing for another 30 minutes. Although I complained but I was not obliged so I had to write.

“The portion on my statement that I voluntarily elected to write was written by the EFCC operative and I was asked to sign,” Agaba told the court.

Also testifying before the court, Lanre Olayinka, a legal practitioner narrated how he got a call at the airport when he was returning to Nigeria from a trip that the 2nd defendant, Agaba had been arrested by the EFCC.

“I couldn’t go the EFCC office that day but the 2nd day when I got there, I was approached by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo who told me that the 2nd defendant was being interrogated and that I should wait until they finish, to see him. This same treatment was meted out to me each time I attempted to see him. I was never for once allowed to see or talk to him. So it would be right to say that I never acted as his counsel and I was never given access to act in any capacity as his counsel when he was in EFCC’s custody”, Olayinka said.

However, EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo promised to proof that contrary to Agaba’s claims, that he was never coerced.

Justice Adebiyi adjourned till January 20, 2017 for the continuation of trial within trial.