The Nigeria Police Force, on Thursday, paraded 14 suspects, including a self-confessed fake police officer, a lawyer, an Islamic cleric, and a journalist for alleged involvement in the October 29 raid on the Maitama, Abuja, residence of a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Mary Odili.
The force said the men who stormed the residence were not security operatives, adding that seven others, including soldiers, who took part in the raid were at large.
Those paraded by the force spokesman, Frank Mba, include the leader of the operation, ‘Chief Superintendent of Police’ Lawrence Ajojo, who admitted that he was an impostor; a lawyer, Alex Onyekoro; a cleric and whistleblower, Aliyu Umar, and Stanley Nkwazema, who claimed to be a freelance journalist with ThisDay.
Members of the team had stormed Odili’s residence and laid a five-hour siege to the house on the strength of a purported tip by Umar, who claimed to have observed illegal activities in the building located at No. 9 Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja.
Following an order by Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, who issued a search warrant to a body identified as the Joint Panel Recovery Unit in the Ministry of Justice, the supposed security operatives besieged Odili’s home but they were resisted.
The magistrate later revoked the order, saying he was misled.
The incident sparked an outrage with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, absolving his office of involvement in the operation.
The police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission also said they were not aware of the raid.
Disclosing the police findings while parading the suspects, Mba said a desktop computer, a laptop, two flash drives and a printer were recovered from Ajojo’s house, adding that the forged signature of the AGF was found on the system.
The force spokesman revealed that two identity cards bearing CSP Ajojo and ASP Ojo were recovered from the ringleader, adding that the second card indicated that he worked for the EFCC.
“A computer and laptop were found in the course of a search that was conducted on his house and when the laptop was digitally searched, a sample of the signature of the Attorney-General of the Federation was found on the computer. We also found a printer in his house and it was very easy for us to forensically and digitally connect the ID card to the computer and the printer,” Mba stated.
He said efforts were ongoing to arrest the fleeing suspects, adding that those in custody would soon be arraigned.
Mba said, “In the course of our investigation, it was discovered that the man, who claimed to be a CSP, Lawrence Ajojo, is in fact not a police officer; he is an impostor and not one of us. Although this syndicate has a search warrant, that particular search warrant was obtained based on falsehood.
“The search warrant contained house No. 9 Imo Crescent, but the house they attempted to gain access into is No. 7 of the same street. We also discovered that the identity card, which was purported to have been signed by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which actually bears the said signatures of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, is also a forged document.
“The signature that was super-imposed on the ID was also fraudulently obtained and imposed on the document. The crime was professionally concealed with actors drawn from different fields of human endeavours ranging from law, journalism, banking and law enforcement agencies. The crime originated from one Yusufu Adamu, a whistleblower and civil servant attached to the Bauchi State liaison office in the FCT.
“He claimed to have very intimate relationships with the Odilis and also claimed to have inside knowledge of the working arrangements of the family. He is the first person who came out to say there is a large amount of money in the house in foreign currencies ranging from pounds to euros and dollars.”
Mba added that Adamu contacted one Bashir Musa, a clerk in the audit department of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and sought his assistance in getting a spiritualist, who could pray and get the money cleansed as there was a spell on the money.
Bashir in turn contacted Abdullahi Adamu, who contacted Umar, the Islamic cleric.
Responding to questions, Ajojo admitted to forging the signature of Malami, which was imposed on his fake identity card.
“He (AGF) was not the one who signed the ID. The signature was phished from online. I’m the one who did it,” Ajojo stated.
He also denied working with the Assets Recovery Panel Unit of the justice ministry.
When asked about their motive for going to Odili’s home, he said, “The whistleblower came to me and narrated his discovery. The house is number 9 and not number 7. When we got to that place, we found out that it was a Supreme Court justice (residence); the search warrant was not executed.”
I’m a consultant to Malami, Ajojo insists
Ajojo, who is from Kogi State, however, claimed that he was a consultant to the AGF and that he was given several accounts to recover by the minister.
“I’m not from another country, this is my country. They gave me 29 accounts to recover; they did not give (them) to any chambers; Malami gave (them) to me, but this assignment (Odili’s house raid) I went (on my own), Malami did not send me. I’m a recovery consultant. I am not a lawyer; I am a consultant. We are five employed in (by) that office,” he stated.
The whistleblower, Umar, who prides himself as a prayer warrior, claimed that he got information that ill-gotten wealth was kept in Odili’s residence during his prayers, adding that he led Ajodo to the justice’s residence.
He stated, “I am the whistleblower. I swore to an affidavit on October 13 that money was in the house. Let me explain what gave me the confidence to swear to the affidavit. I introduced myself as a prayer warrior. When I was introduced to the house, I did some Istihara and discovered that the information I was given from the prayer is real.
“Then, I finished my Istihara and I went for the affidavit and was directed on the procedure; that is why I went to the EFCC for an interview. They called me and we all assembled at the Ministry of Justice and I asked; ‘Mr Lawrence, I started my journey from EFCC, why did I see myself here?’ He answered that the EFCC was under the ministry of justice. He told me he was working in the office. Before the operation, I agreed and we went for surveillance at the house; I showed him Justice Peter Odili’s house No 7.”
Narrating how he got involved in the incident, Nkwazema said he was invited by Onyekoro concerning an asset recovery operation that would be carried out at a building in Maitama, adding that he had earlier discovered some discrepancies in Ajojo’s ID card, which had the AGF’s signature.
He explained that Ajojo gave conflicting details of the police institutions he attended.
Nkwazema said, “My involvement is that Alex Onyekoro, who is seated here, called me and said there was a lead of a scoop of an asset recovery and funds that he claimed to be in a house that nobody was residing in and that involved millions of dollars. He now told me about Lawrence Ajojo and he promised to give me a lead.
“I was following Lawrence. The day we had our first meeting, I found discrepancies in his ID card. I asked him how could the AGF sign the ID card of a so-called CSP? I asked if he was from the office of the AGF and he said no.”
The reporter said he was in touch with Ajojo over three days before the day of the incident, adding that on the day the operation was carried out, he observed that the address he gave to him was not correct.
Confession of suspect, case of a drowning man – AGF’s aide
In his reaction, the Special Assistant to Malami on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, dismissed Ajodo’s claims that he was engaged as a consultant by the minister, describing his confession as the case of a drowning man “scavenging for a dying partner.”
Gwandu said his principal would not descend so low to engage a quack or fake police officer to serve as his consultant with all the professionals and resources at his disposal.
He stated, “With all the competent, high level professionals and capable human resources available at the disposal of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, it only takes the imagination of evil minds to assume or think that the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will descend so low to engage a quack or fake police officer to serve as his consultant.
“This is a case of a drowning man scavenging for a dying partner. We are happy to note that investigation has commenced to unravel the circumstances and personalities behind the invasion and sponsored campaign of calumny against the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.”
Gwandu expressed the hope that the investigation would also disclose “those after the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; and those dragging his personality, his name and his exalted office in the dirty politics of disrepute.”
“This is an orchestrated attempt to stir unnecessary controversies and public apprehension. All attempts to bring the name of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice into this dastardly act will fail,” he stated.
Gwandu challenged the suspect to present documents of engagement showing he worked as a consultant to the AGF.
ThisDay disowns journalist
Meanwhile, the management of ThisDay Newspapers has claimed that Nkwazema is no longer its employee, having left the organisation about 15 years ago.
In a statement signed by the Managing Editor, Print and Digital, Bolaji Adebiyi, ThisDay said, “Contrary to his claim, Mr Nkwazema is neither a member of staff of ThisDay nor a contributing editor. He was a sports correspondent and resigned more than 15 years ago.
“However, occasionally, he, like hundreds of other readers of the newspaper, sends for publication articles and analyses, and is usually obliged, a privilege ThisDay gives to some of its ex-staff. That does not in any way make him a staff and contributing editor of ThisDay.
“Since his resignation, ThisDay had at no time contracted Mr Nkwazema to investigate any story, and we know nothing of his alleged investigation of a story leading to the raid of the residence of Justice Odili.
“The police authorities and the general public should, therefore, note that Mr Nkwazema, whatever may be his involvement in this matter, was not acting on behalf of ThisDay in any shape or form.”
FG browbeating judiciary ahead of 2023 – Wike
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the invasion of the residence of Justice Odili was a precursor to the Federal Government’s infamous tactic of browbeating the judiciary to a state of fear and conformity ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The governor alleged that the Federal Government wanted to continue to ride roughshod unchecked over the rule of law and the sanctity of the country’s electoral system, hence the renewed attack on judicial officers.
Wike made the assertion at a special court session to mark the opening of the 2021/2022 legal year of the Rivers State judiciary held at the state Chief Judge’s ceremonial court in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
This was contained in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, titled, ‘APC-led FG Browbeating Judiciary ahead of 2023 – Gov Wike’