By Edith Nwapi
Abuja, – An Abuja High Court has adjoined the trial of the suspended Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and three others until May 11.
Idris was dragged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside Geoffrey Olusegun Akindele; Mohammed Kudu Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited on a 14-count charge, bordering on diversion of public fund to the tune of N109.5 billion.
Justice Yusuf Halilu adjourned the trial at the instance of the prosecution ..
At the last sitting on Nov, 23, 2022, counsel for the defendants objected to the tendering of the statements made by their clients at the EFCC headquarters.
The prosecution had sought to tender the statements through the first prosecution witness (PW1), Hayatudeen Ahmed, an operative with the anti-graft agency.
The counsel argued that the statements which were not voluntarily recorded, was in violation of Sections 15 and 17 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, adding that the statements were obtained in the absence of the defendants’ lawyers.
Idris’s counsel Mr Chris Uche, SAN told the court that the AGF’s statement was taken without his lawyer present.
The judge ordered for a trial- within- trial following arguments on the admissibility of the statements based on their voluntariness.
At the resumed sitting, the prosecution brought its first witness(PW1), Ahmed in the trial-within-trial.
The EFCC counsel, Oluwaleke Atolegbe told the court that there were about 13 statements made by the first defendant.
The witness told the court that the statement of the the first defendant dated Jan. 22, 2022 was made by him.
” He got to know there was an investigation on the fourth defendant. And said he wanted to make submissions regarding him.
“I had a brief interview with him as the investigation was at preliminary stage
We informed him that whatever we discussed must be in writing.
” We asked if he came with a lawyer but he insisted that he can write his statement without a lawyer.
“After the cautionary word was read to him, he said he understood it and he wrote his name and signed” he told the court.
Ahmed told the court that after the January statement, there was need to investigate the emerging facts.
He added that operatives called the phone number on the statement and sent text messages but there was no response and then made arrest on May 16, 2022.
Ahmed said Idris was with his security detail on May 17, 2022, and was interviewed on the new facts that emerged from the previous day.
” The director of legal services department of the AGF, Haruna Isa witnessed the statement writing.
” On May 21, 2022, additional statement was made voluntarily at the end, the defendant ‘s lawyer signed as a witness” he said.
He said that on May 23, 2022, May 25
May 26. June 1, June 6, June 10 and 27 the first defendant came with someone in each occasion as witness.
When the prosecution was about asking the witness on July 5, 2022 statement, his counsel Uche objected ,saying that the defendants were not served with copies.
At this point, Alolegbe for the prosecution prayed the court to give them an adjournment to enable them serve the defendants with the statements they said they don’t have.
EFCC alleged that Idris, among others, between February and December, 2021, while being a public servant by virtue of his position as Accountant-General of the Federation accepted gratification.
According to EFCC the money, did not form part of Idris’s remuneration but a motive for accelerating the payment of 13 per cent derivation , thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 155 of the Penal Code Act Cap 533 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 and punishable under the same section.
Idris and Akindele, who was Technical Assistant to the Accountant-General of the Federation, were accused of committing criminal breach of trust while being entrusted with certain property, to wit N84.3 billion.
EFCC claimed the offence occurred between February and November 2021.
By this, the first and second defendants were alleged to have committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them. (NAN)