N8.5bn Fraud: We Obtained Atewe’s Statement Voluntarily, Says EFCC

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A prosecution witness, Mrs. Modupe Jimoh, wednesday told a Federal High Court Lagos that the statement of a former Military Commander, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, was voluntarily obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in relation to an N8.5 billion fraud charge.

Atewe, a former military Commander of the Niger-Delta Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield, is charged alongside Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Also charged are two other staffs of the Agency, Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga.
They are standing trial on an amended 22 count charge bordering on fraud.

The prosecution had opened its case in February 2017, and had called its first witness, Mr. Nkem Ahidjo, an operative with the commission.

In the cause of trial, the defence had raised objection to the tendering of the statement of Atewe, on the grounds that same was not obtained voluntarily.
Justice Ayokunle Faji had then ordered a trial-within-trial, to test the voluntariness of the statement of the accused.

When trial-within-trial continued on Wednesday, the cross examination of a prosecution witness, Mr. Adamu Yusuf, was concluded.
The prosecution then called on its next witness, Mrs. Modupe Jimoh, who introduced herself as an operative with the EFCC.

Led in examination by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness told the court that her schedule of duty includes the investigation of EFCC.

She affirmed that she knew the accused, (Atewe) whom she said featured in an investigation by the commission, which had received intelligence that NIMASA transferred the sum of N8 billion and some fractions, to the account of JTF operation Pulo Shield.

The prosecutor then called for exhibit X which is the statement of the accused, and asked the witness for her reaction to the allegation that the statement of the accused was not obtained voluntarily.

The witness replied: “I am surprised; the commission sent invitation to the defendant which he honoured and reported to the commission on May 16, 2016.

“When he came in, we showed him facts and documents found in the course of our investigation and he told us that he had things to say in his defence, which he volunteered to put down in writing.

“So, i cautioned him in writing, in the presence of my colleagues, Adamu Yusuf and Boniface Uzoechi, and later, read it out to him that he is not obliged to say anything except he wishes to do so, adding that whatever he says will be taken down in writing, and given in evidence.

“In response, he said he understood, and then continued to volunteer his statement; on May 19, 2016, he told the commission that he would like to volunteer additional statements, he was cautioned and this took place in the presence of my colleagues, Adamu and Boniface,”
On the question whether the accused was oppressed, threatened or assaulted in the course of volunteering his statement, the witness replied “No”

She further explained that the commission was governed by three core values which she said were Courage, integrity and Professionalism.
She added that as a member of the Security Committee, there exist serious regards for seniority, and no one threatens or forces any information out of a serving General.

The witness was then handed exhibit X and asked to confirm if it was the statement of the accused made to the commission and in whose handwriting is the cautionary word.
In response, she confirmed that the exhibit was the statement of the accused adding that the cautionary word was written in her handwriting.

On whether there was any form of threat or oppression on each occasion when the accused volunteered his statements, the witness replied “No”
The witness also testified that in the invitation to the accused, there were no instructions whatsoever, on who to bring along.

The prosecution then asked :from that May 16, 2016 when the defendant was invited till date, have you received any petition from the accused against you or your team concerning the manner he was treated in the commission”
The witness replied “No”
Again the prosecutor asked: “you said statements were obtained from the accused from May 16 to May, 2016, so where was the accused during the period.

The witness replied : “He was granted bail”
Continuation of the trial-within-trial has been adjourned until March 6.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to divert N8.5billion from Operation Pulo Shield between Sep. 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015, using seven companies..