Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, Maitama, Abuja on Thursday, February 1, 2024, admitted new evidence against former Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris in a trial-within-trial.
Idris, first defendant in a 14-count charge bordering on gratification, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of over N109 billion, in a sudden twist, claimed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) obtained his statement under duress, necessitating a trial-within-trial to determine the veracity of his claim. He is standing trial alongside three others: his company, Mr. Godfrey Olusegun Akindele and Mohammed Kudu Usman.
During today’s sitting, Hayatuddeen Ahmad, First Prosecution Witness, PW1, informed the court that Idris freely volunteered his statement to the Commission and was neither pressured nor deceived to do so. Also contrary to Idris’s claim, the PW1 disclosed that at no time was the defendant promised that he would not be prosecuted by the Commission.
Under cross-examination by prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, the PW1 stated that “There was no such deception of the promise made to the first defendant. After he was cautioned, he was told that the matter would end up in court. The defendant came with his legal representative in the person of Gbenga Adeyemi, who witnessed the statement from beginning to end. He signed to show that he understood the cautionary statement.”
According to the witness, Idris’s statement “was recorded in the Chairman’s Monitoring Unit, (CMU), with a functional recording system and a chair for the convenience of the defendant. There was a table, light and the restroom.” He stated that “after the first defendant reported, cautionary words were written and administered to him, which he read and understood. The additional statement was in continuation of some of the issues involving investigation.”
Speaking further, the witness disclosed that “there was an interview session involving the first, second and third defendants at the Chairman’s Monitoring Unit, CMU, where they discussed issues regarding the investigation. There was a video recording to buttress this issue to show how calm and peaceful the atmosphere of the interview at the Chairman’s Monitoring Unit, CMU was.”
The witness identified the cautionary statement made by the first defendant, dated May 25 2022 and witnessed by his lawyer and other statements dated 26 May; 31 May; June 1; June 6; June 10 and June 27, 2022.
The witness narrated that the recording was done using his official Samsung mobile phone, after which the video was processed into a DVD plate.
As the video was played in court, he easily identified the defendants. “I can identify them, the gentleman seated in white is the third defendant, while the gentleman wearing grey “agbada” is the first defendant. The gentleman wearing a blue caftan is the second defendant. The person interacting with them is Mahmud Tukur, my immediate supervisor, who was the head of CMU 2,” Adding that Tukur and Mubarak Isa were also witnesses to the taking of Idris’s statements.
The judge admitted the DVD in evidence, marked as “TWT-A,” trial-within-trial, Exhibit A.
Ahmad added that the first, second and third defendants benefitted from a non-existent consultancy from the Office of the Accountant General, while the first defendant was in charge, stating that it was the sharing formula of the money they illegally got was what was discussed in the video.
After the witness was cross-examined by counsel to the first defendant, Justice Halilu adjourned the matter till March 20, 2024 for continuation of the trial-within-trial.
Idris was arrested on May 16, 2022, by the EFCC for diversion of funds and money laundering. He was subsequently arraigned on July 22, 2022, on 14-count charges before Justice Adeyemi Ajayi.