Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
One of the lawyers who defended President Muhammadu Buhari in the suit challenging his qualification to seek election to the Office of the President, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), has described as ridiculous the allegation that the N500,000 he gave to Justice Adeniyi Ademola for his daughter’s wedding was a bribe from the president.
Reacting to news reports that he gave the judge, who is on trial before an Abuja High Court for corruption, the money at the behest of the president, Awodein said: “I am constrained to make in absolute good faith, in good conscience and in the interest of justice and fair play the following very short statement on account of the distorted news story currently being peddled as affecting the person of Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and my good and very noble self.”
Awodein’s reaction was issued on his behalf by the president’s media aide Mr. Femi Adesina yesterday in Abuja.
Awodein described the allegation as “malicious, utterly ridiculous, and revolting”.
The senior lawyer said that he had known Justice Ademola as a friend for well over 35 years.
This fact, he said, was well known to a majority of lawyers who have practiced, especially in Lagos, during the same period and also by many professionals of other disciplines and other prominent and not so prominent Nigerians.
He said: “It is a fact that the sum of money mentioned was personally paid by me as a friend to Mr. Justice Ademola as a personal gift, as our custom well recognises and demands on the occasion of his daughter’s high society wedding solemnised at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, on the 9th of May 2015, which I attended in person.
“I was fully convinced then, as I remain today, that I could do no less as a friend of longstanding to fairly reasonably support him on that memorable occasion of his daughter’s wedding.
“Anyone and everyone who knows me would readily and unquestionably testify that I am and have always been a man of impeccable integrity on and off the courts and that such a record speaks always loudly for itself.
“I would conclude by stating categorically and without any equivocation that any link whatsoever with Mr. President, or any court case or cases, of my personal gift from my personal resources delivered to Justice Niyi Ademola by myself on that occasion, or any suggestion whatsoever that it was anything but a gift, or that it ever came from Mr. President, or at his instance, or that I was acting under any circumstances on his behalf, is most malicious, utterly ridiculous and in very, very poor and revolting taste and most undeserving of any further comments.”
Also weighing in on the issue, Adesina said Nigerians were aware that Buhari challenged the election results of 2003, 2007, and 2011 up to the Supreme Court, and not once was he accused of trying to compromise any judge, though some of them were his schoolmates or contemporaries at one time or the other.
He said this was in keeping with the president’s time-tested reputation as a man of truth and integrity.
“Any attempt to sully that reputation is bound to fail, inexorably,” he added.
Adesina said the statement by Awodein had shown that Buhari was in no way linked with Justice Ademola at all.
The prosecution witness in Justice Ademola’s trial had during cross-examination on Tuesday revealed that Awodein had given the judge N500,000 as a gift for his daughter’s wedding.
However, at the time the gift was given, Awodein was on the team of lawyers that represented the president in the defence of his suit challenging Buhari’s eligibility to contest the 2015 presidential election over his secondary school certificate.
By coincidence, the trial judge in the suit contesting the president’s eligibility was Justice Ademola.