An accused, Haruna Jauro, has told a Federal High Court Lagos, that he was invited by the EFCC with the hope of being its witness against Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director General (DG) of NIMASA.
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Jauro, a former acting DG of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), gave the evidence at the resumed trial-within-trial, over a N304.1 million fraud charge preferred against him.
Jauro assumed leadership of NIMASA after an erstwhile DG, Akpobolokemi, who is also currently facing about three different fraud charges before the courts.
He is charged by EFCC alongside Dauda Bawa and Thlumbau Enterprises Ltd on 19 counts bordering on offence bordering on N304.1
They were arraigned on April 12, 2016 and had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court had admitted them to bail in the sum of N5 million each with two sureties each in like sum.
During trial in February, the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo had called its first witness, Mr. Orji Chukwuma, who had testified how several sums of monies were allegedly converted by the accused.
Oyedepo had then sought to tender a written statement of the accused as evidence in court, but his moved was opposed by defence counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo, who argued that the said statements were not voluntarily obtained.
Ojo had urged the court to order a trial-within-trial, to determine if the statements were voluntarily obtained by the commission.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun had consequently, ordered a trial-within-trial.
Led in his evidence by defence counsel (Ojo) Jauro told the court that in July 2015, a team of operatives from the EFCC led by one Mr. Ghali, had visited NIMASA, while he acted as DG after the sack of Akpobolokemi.
He said that the operatives told him that they were at NIMASA to investigate its activities, and further enquired from him if he was a substantive or acting DG.
He told the court that he told the operatives that he was in acting capacity, adding that the operatives then asked if he would like to be confirmed as DG.
He said: “I replied yes and the leader then told me that he would be happy if I am confirmed as substantive DG adding that my maximum cooperation will be needed.
“He then told me that they were there to investigate the former DG and then asked me about my involvement in the running of the agency.
“I told him my involvement, which includes: employment of staffs, procurement procedures, payment procedures, budget proposals and many other areas.
“After some days, he came back to me and said that he had discovered that all I told him about my activities in NIMASA are correct, and that I had nothing to hide, adding that EFCC will now make me a witness in the trial of the ex DG,”
The accused told the court that for him, the good news ended there, as the whole story changed after he got to the EFCC for interrogation.
He said that there at the Commission, he was given an asset declaration form, which he filled, while his lawyer was not allowed access to the interrogation table.
According to him, after visiting the commission several times, he was thereafter, informed that “orders” from Abuja says he should be detained.
During cross examination the prosecutor (Oyedepo) posed the following questions.
“You were appointed in acting capacity as DG of NIMASA by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also removed by same authority right?
Oyedepo: “so it will be right to say the EFCC is not in any position to determine your appointment?”
Jauro: “well, yes”
Oyedepo then asked: “in your statement to the EFCC, the column for date, occupation, address and other details were filled personally by you right? And Jauro answered in the affirmative.
The prosecutor then asked if during his interrogation at the EFCC he was forced to make admissions; and the accused replied “No”.
Jauro also said that in his statement to the commission, he did not admit to committing any crime.
Oyedepo asked again: “during interrogation when you reply “I cannot remember”, were you forced to remember anything? Jauro again replied “No”.
Justice Olatoregun has fixed April 28 for adoption of final written addresses.
The EFCC accused Jauro and others of conspiring among themselves to defraud NIMASA to the tune of N304.1million between January 2014 and September 2015.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the accused converted the sums to their private use, an offence which it said contravened the provisions of section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012