Court dismisses ex-NIMASA ED Ezekiel Agaba’s forced statement claim

The Federal High Court in Lagos Tuesday dismissed the claim by suspended Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, Captain Ezekiel Agaba, that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) forced him to make a statement against his will.

Justice Ibrahim Buba, in a ruling on a trial-within-trial, held that statements by Agaba and his former aide Ekene Nwakuche were made voluntarily.

Agaba had alleged that EFCC starved him for two days and threatened to further detain him if he refused to write what the operatives wanted. He claimed that his demand for his lawyer to be present was refused.

Also testifying in the trial-within-trial yesterday, Nwakuche claimed he was never allowed access to his lawyer while making his statements at the EFCC.

He alleged that an EFCC operative Orji Chukwuma tutored him on what to write.

On whether his interrogation was video recorded, he said, “I was even asked to remove my shiny wrist band on suspicion that it was a recording device.”

Under cross examination by the prosecution counsel Rotimi Oyedepo, Nwakuche admitted that he was cautioned before his statements were obtained, and that he did not make a formal complaint to EFCC chairman because he feared such as report would not “see the light of the day”.

Justice Buba asked prosecution and defence counsel to address the court before he delivers his, but defence counsel Edoka Onyeke and Lanre Olayinka objected on the basis that they were not prepared.

The judge refused their prayer for adjournment, noting that a trial-within-trial could be conducted in a day and ruling delivered same day.

Oyedepo, in his address, said, “The second defendant admitted that his daughter was always allowed into the EFCC to bring him food and fruits; this is a clear departure from his evidence in chief.

“I urge the court to hold that the evidence of PW 1 to 3 has clearly established that the statements of second and third accused were made voluntarily.”

Ruling, Justice Buba held that the objections against the statements were an afterthought.

He said, “By the provision of section 28 of the Evidence Act, the onus to show that a statement was taken voluntarily rests with the prosecution, and the defendant has no corresponding duty to show otherwise.

“The second defendant admits that he was granted bail by the EFCC, and was coming to the commission from his home with his driver.

“Where a defendant is on bail and chose not to come with his lawyer to make a statement, then he cannot complain.”

He admitted the defendants’ statement as evidence and adjourned until June 30 for continuation of trial.

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