Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The 16th prosecution witness in the trial of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court and two others for alleged corruption, tuesday continued giving evidence and admitted under cross-examination before an Abuja High Court one of the co-defendants in the trial, Mr. Joe Ago (SAN), had informed him that a counsel to President Muhammdu Buhari gave the judge a “gift”, not a bribe of N500,000 during the wedding of the latter’s daughter.
The witness, Babatunde Adepoju, who is an operative of the Department of State Security Service (DSS), also admitted that the N30 million transferred by Agi to the account of Mrs. Olabowale Ademola, the wife of Justice Ademola, could not be described as a bribe.
Both Agi and Mrs. Ademola are jointly being tried alongside the judge.
Adepoju said that Agi told him during investigation that one of the lawyers in the team that defended the suit seeking to prove that Buhari did not have the basic qualification to aspire to the Office of the President, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN) gave N500,000 to the judge as a gift during his daughter’s wedding.
The witness, however, held the view that the gift of N500,000 could not be described as a bribe.
In addition, the witness admitted that there was no petition from anybody that the monies recovered from Justice Ademola’s house were the proceeds of crime or bribe.
The federal government is prosecuting Ademola, his wife and his family lawyer, Agi, for alleged gratification.
The federal government, after calling 19 witnesses, closed its case yesterday.
The defendants have however applied to the court to file a no case submission.
A no case submission is an application filed by a defendant in which he intends to show the court that the prosecution has not established a prima facie case against him.
The court adjourned till March 15 to hear the no case submission.
In the 16-count charge, the prosecution alleged that Agi transferred the sum of N30 million in three tranches of N10 million each into the account of Olabowale and alleged that the money was gratification, an allegation the defendants have denied.
The witness, Adepoju had earlier told the court that he investigated the alleged offences levelled against the defendants.
In his statement to the DSS, Agi had said that the said money was a gift from Ken Hubert and Bassey Bassey who are friends of Justice Ademola for the wedding of his daughter.
At the resumed trial yesterday, while being cross-examined, Adepoju admitted that it was customary in Nigeria that friends and well wishers shower gifts on anyone planning a wedding.
Adepoju, in his evidence, had informed the court that he took the statement of Agi on December 23, 2016.
Based on that, he was asked under cross-examination whether Agi told him that the gift of N30 million from Ken Hubert and Bassey was a gift to the judge for the wedding of his daughter and the witness answered “yes”.
The witness was also asked whether Agi told him that it was not only Hubert and Bassey that gave a gift to the judge but that Buhari’s lawyer, Kola Awodein (SAN), also passed a gift of N500,000 to the judge. The witness also answered “yes”.
He was further asked whether Agi had told him that the N500,000 gift was given to the judge by Awodein during the pendency of Buhari’s certificate suit before Justice Ademola. He admitted that he was told so.
Adepoju was then asked whether as an investigator, he investigated the assertion that the said gift was given during the pendency of the suit.
He however answered that he did not investigate.
It was at this point that the defence team tendered the court papers of a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/01/2015 dated February 9, 2015, wherein Chukwuwinke Okafor sued General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) over his qualification to run for the Office of the President.
Adepoju was then asked to read out the name of the third counsel defending Buhari in the matter. The witness read out the name of “Kola Awodein”.
The court in turn admitted the papers in evidence.
The witness was then asked whether it was right to say that Buhari had bribed Ademola on the basis that his lawyer gave the judge a gift of N500,000 for his daughter’s wedding. The witness answered “no”.
Adepoju was further asked whether it could be said that Agi bribed Ademola with the said N30 million when such gift passed through him (Agi) for the judge’s daughter’s wedding. The witness also answered “no”.
He was then asked why he did not believe when Agi and the givers of the said N30 million gift had said it was a gift for the judge’s daughter’s wedding. The witness said he did not just believe.
However, a letter written by Hubert and Bassey backing up the cash gift was given to him to read and the letter was tendered as evidence before the court.
The witness was also asked whether in the course of his investigation, he found any case which Agi was handling before Justice Ademola that could warrant the payment of such N30 million. Adepoju answered that he did not see any such case.
On the money recovered from Justice Ademola, the defense asked whether anybody lodged a complaint to the DSS that money was given to Justice Ademola as a bribe. The witness answered “no”.
The defence also asked whether anyone had laid a claim to the monies recovered in Justice Ademola’s house. The witness said nobody had come to lay a claim on the monies, but Justice Ademola had insisted that the money was his.