By Sandra Umeh
Lagos – A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ruled that the statements obtained by the EFCC from Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, an ex-aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan, were made voluntarily and not under duress.
Dudafa is arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside. Joseph Iwejuo, on 23 counts bordering on fraud, conspiracy and concealment of crime proceeds.
Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the commencement of trial on Nov. 21, 2016, the defence counsel, Mr Gboyega Oyewole, had raised an objection to the tendering of Dudafa’s statement as evidence.
He argued that the statement was an “extra-judicial”statement as it possessed similar features, claiming that Dudafa was forced to make the statement.
Oyewole had urged the court to conduct of a trial-within-trial to ascertain if the statements were voluntarily obtained.
Consequently, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered a trial-within-trial in a bid to test the voluntariness of the statement.
The judge had taken arguments from both counsel and final addresses were adopted in March, while the court reserved its ruling.
Delivering his ruling on Monday, Justice Idris held that the statements of the accused were voluntarily obtained.
“The question then is, are the statements confessional?
“A confession is that which is made before the police and any other security agent while investigation is on.
“There is no evidence before the court that the statements made by the defendant is not a confessional statement.
“I cannot, therefore, hold that the statements were not voluntarily made,” he said.
The judge further held that the statements in contention were made under caution and same voluntarily obtained.
Consequently, he adjourned further hearing until June 21.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have on June 11, 2013, conspired to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N1.6 billion.
It was alleged that they concealed the sum through a company — Seagate Property Development and Investment Ltd and that they also used Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd to launder over N399 million.
Other companies allegedly used in perpetuating the alleged crime include Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Rotato Inter Link Services Ltd and De Jakes Fast Food and Restaurant Nigerian Ltd.
Dudafa was alleged to have between June 1 and June 4, 2015, contracted Iwejuo and Ebiwise Resources Ltd to conceal N150 million being alleged proceeds of crime.
EFCC also alleged that on April 27, Dudafa failed to provide any information in relation to over N616 million held on his behalf by Seagate Property’s account.
The prosecution said he also failed to disclose the sum of N560 million held for him by De Jakes Fast Food Ltd as well as the sum of N10 million held for him by Ibejige Services Ltd.
The offences, according to the prosecution, contravened the provisions of Section 27 (3), (c) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004.