Suspended Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Captain Ezekiel Agaba yesterday alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) forced him to make a statement against his will.
He alleged that EFCC starved him for two days and threatened to further detain him if he refused to write what the operatives wanted.
Agaba said he demanded that his lawyer must be present before his statement was taken but the request was allegedly refused.
His testimony followed an objection by his lawyer Edoka Onyeke that his client’s statement to EFCC was not made voluntarily.
Agaba was arraigned along with former NIMASA Director-General Patrick Akpobolokemi before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Others undergoing trial with them include Agaba’s former aides Ekene Nwakuche and Governor Juan as well as Blockz and Stonz Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.
EFCC charged them with converting N2.6billion between December 23, 2013 and May 28 last year, to which they pleaded not guilty.
Testifying in a “trial within trial” to determine whether the statement was made voluntarily, Agaba said EFCC operatives came to his office last August 18 to conduct a search, after which they took him to their Ikoyi office.
Agaba said from EFCC’s office, the operatives took him to his Lekki home and his house and vehicles were also searched.
“We got back to EFCC at about 11.45pm. Orji Chukwuma, one of the operatives, brought out a sheet of paper that I was going to write a statement. I requested to see my lawyer. They refused and said I should write even though I hadn’t slept for 18 hours. I continued writing till about 1am when they took me to their detention centre,” he said.
Agaba said he was brought back to the interrogation room the following day. He contacted a lawyer, Lanre Olayinka, who allegedly was not allowed access to him.
“I was told that I was not allowed to go home because I was seen as being uncooperative. Between 9am and 10pm, I was not given food. I was given water, which I requested. On 20th of August, I requested for bread and tea from an inmate.
“Again, I requested for my lawyer, and they said I was not the one they were looking for, that why should I bother myself? I was not allowed access to a lawyer.
“I was not allowed to write freely. I was threatened with not going home, which was like a death sentence to me because I had never experienced anything like that before.
“I wanted to explain the circumstances of the transactions but they cut that part off and asked me to write about the actual transfers. I was not given the opportunity to write the full story,” Agaba said.
Asked whether there was a video recording of the interrogation, Agaba said, “Unless the video was hidden, there was no video at any time. All my protests were not recorded. I did not see any video.”
Under cross-examination by EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo, Agaba admitted that his daughter Pamela brought food and fruits to him at EFCC.
He also admitted that NIMASA’s legal officer came to stand surety for him, and he was released on bail to the lawyer on August 20.
Agaba said he would not be surprised if it was shown to him that Olayinka signed a visitor’s register having come to see him. He said he was cautioned before making the statement.
When Oyedepo asked him to identify anywhere in the statement where EFCC operatives asked him to confess to the crime, he said he was never forced to admit to the crime.
Asked if he made any official complaint to EFCC chairman about being maltreated, or filed any fundamental rights suit, or petitioned the National Human Rights Commission, Agaba said he did not.
“I didn’t make any formal report that I was maltreated,” he said.
The trial within trial continues today.
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