By Our Reporter
ABUJA (Sundiata Post) It was high drama in the trial of former minister of the FCT Senator Bala Mohammed, today (Monday, January 12, 2018) as a witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ishaya Daudu admitted that the former minister was not the owner of four of the houses for which he had been dragged to court.
Mr. Daudu was being cross-examined by Chris Uche, SAN, lead counsel to the former minister, when hearing in the suit; Federal Republic of Nigeria Vs Bala Mohammed resumed in the Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Abubakar Talba yesterday.
Ishaya Daudu, from the EFCC, who is also the investigating Police Officer (IPO) in the matter, had taken the witness box to be cross examined by Bala Mohammed’s 16-member defence team led by Chris Uche, SAN. The defence also had Goddy Uche, SAN and Onyeka Nwokolo Esq. Unlike at previous hearings when security at the court was beefed up to the hilt, this time around, the atmosphere was more civil and less intimidating.
Calling the court to order at 9.17 am, Justice Talba reminded the EFCC witness, Ishaya Daudu that he was still on oath and had sworn to tell the court the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to which he agreed. That left the stage for Chris Uche to fire the first salvo as his client, Bala Mohammed watched intently from the box.
Talking about high drama, on at least two occasions, Mr. Daudu raised doubts over statements that had been pleaded in the proof of evidence prompting lead defence, Chris Uche, at some point, to remark that it would be good if the prosecution disowned the matter in its entirety.
These led to issues over admissibility of documents. Contention over such documents reached fever pitch when Uche, SAN, requested the EFCC witness to read the first paragraph of a letter written by the managing director of Aso Savings and Loans to the former minster to which prosecution counsel, Prince Ben Ikani Esq. objected, contending that though it was filed as proof of evidence, it did not qualify to be admitted. After listening to both counsel, Justice Talba ruled that it was the responsibility of the IPO to obtain a certified true copy or the original of the document.
Below are paraphrased excerpts from judicial exchanges that ensued.
Uche SAN: The MD of Aso Savings & Loans said in his a statement, obtained by the EFCC, that the defendant, then FCT minister, “did not ask for a house or anything at the time or at any other time”.
Ishaya Audu, IPO from EFCC confirms statement.
Uche: Asokoro house in question is a mortgage transaction
Ishaya: No; defendant does not even have an account with Aso savings and Loans
Uche: Aso Savings and Loans went to court and got the forfeiture order vacated. They are still in court over the matter.
Ishaya: says he is not aware.
Uche: says that title on property is still in the name of Aso savings the time of investigation.
Ishaya: No my Lord.
Uche: And it is not in d name of d defendant.
Ishaya: Yes my Lord
Property on Mike Akhigbe Street, Jabi in Abuja
Uche: Defendant’s alleged offence was that at d time of the investigation, he didn’t fill the property. He then asks IPO:
Did u see d title document?
Uche: Did it contain d name of d defendant
Ishaya: No, my Lord.
Uche: When he was filling his assets form, a property he owned in Kaduna, he stated it as undeveloped; that’s why u charged him to court
Ishaya: Yes my lord. But it was not d same address.
Uche: So d one he gave as undeveloped is different from d one u saw as developed
Ishaya: Yes my lord.
Uche: Did u find out when it was bought! The undeveloped one, when was it allocated?
Ishaya: It was allocated by the Kaduna State Government but later revoked in 2016.
Uche: Did you see the second property:
Ishaya: I visited the second property at No. 17c Ibrahim Biu…Kaduna
Uche: Did u see d title document of that house?
Ishaya: Yes my lord.
Uche: Can we see a copy?
Ishaya: It is in the file
Uche: What name is on it?
Ishaya: Pastor Allen Agboh.
Uche: And that is not the defendant?
Ishaya: My Lord I need to clarify issues
Uche: Please answer; it is a straight-forward question
Ishaya: Well, it doesn’t look like him.
Uche: In his statement the defendant told you that he is not the owner of that very house; you went and marked X on it.
Uche: The charge against the defendant is that when he was filling the form that he made a false statement that a house in CITEC was his own. You were really looking for something! But you later saw the document of this property and it contained the name of Abubakar Audu.
Ishaya: Yes my Lord.
Uche: And it is because the name on the document is different that you concluded the house is not his own.
Uche: The charge is that he made a false statement to the IPO that he acquired the house at Asokoro on mortgage from Aso Savings & Loans.
Ishaya: Yes my Lord.
So that is the basis of charging him
Ishaya: Yes, my Lord
Uche: The charge in count six is that he used his position to allocate 15 houses in CITEC to his associates.
Ishaya: Yes my Lord.
Uche: Who were his associates? They are members of the same political party? Ishaya: Yes.
Uche: Hope you know what your grievance is; if they were of d opposition, it would not have been an offence? All d allottees have fully paid for the houses?
Ishaya: No my Lord, none of them paid.
Uche: Did you charge them, the people who are holding houses?
Ishaya: He is one of d allottees.
Uche: Does that make him an associate of himself? Did u go after the allottees?
Ishaya: The property has since been recovered from them
Uche: Are you sure?
Uche: Did you, in the course if the investigation, take a statement from one Hon Simon Ataduga?
Ishaya: My colleagues took statements from a number of people.
Uche: Has his own been recovered?
Ishaya: We forwarded his name to assets recovery.
Uche: Those houses, there was a presidential task force which actually handled these houses. And that committee had a chairman? Who was the chairman? Do you remember?
Ishaya: Tries to remember…Alhaji Jungudu
Uche: They were the ones who made these allocations and they had a report.
Ishaya: They were instructed
Uche: How do you know? They made the allocation
Uche: Do you know the entire number of houses allocated?
Uche: And you singled out these 15.
Ishaya: There was a report on them.
Uche: In the course of your investigation, you investigated his account.
Uche: From what you saw, he doesn’t have any foreign or domiciliary account, at least, so far.
Ishaya: I am not sure now.
Uche: But did you look at his local accounts? These allottees, did you see any of them paying any money into his account?
Uche: My Lord that’s all for this witness.
At this point, the prosecutor, Prince Ben Ikani rose and asked the IPO, Mr. Ishaya Daudu:
Prosecutor: Are u still investigating this matter?
The prosecutor said he had no further questions for the IPO at which point he stepped down from the witness box. He told the judge that his other witnesses were not available and asked for a date to continue with the trial.
The matter was adjourned to April 16, 2018.