Justice Muslim S. Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has adjourned further hearing in a case involving a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide, and others to April 9, 2018.
A statement by the Head, Meadia and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren said Akinjide, alongside Senator Ayo Adeseun and a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart, Chief Olanrewaju Otiti, were re-arraigned on January 16, 2018, on an amended 24-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N650m.
It added that they were alleged to have received the money from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
The money was part of the $115 million allegedly disbursed by Alison- Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.
At the last adjourned sitting on March 9, 2018, a prosecution witness, Usman Zakari, an investigating officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had told the court how Akinjide and others received the sum of N650m in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
Zakari, who is the second prosecution witness, PW2, had also narrated the proceedings of a meeting among Allison-Madueke, three oil marketers and some individuals on December 2014, adding that “after the meeting, Allison-Madueke told the managing director of a bank that three oil companies would pay some dollars to his bank.”
The witness had further said that his investigation revealed that three oil marketers and individuals paid $89m, while the aides to Allison-Madueke made available $25m in suit cases, totaling $115m.
However, at the resumed hearing today, Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, urged the court to discountenance the evidence of the witness on the grounds that he did not attend the meeting between Alison-Madueke, oil marketers and the individuals
“The Investigating officer can say that he found out that there was a meeting. But he cannot say what transpired at the meeting because he did not attend the meeting.
“An ordinary witness cannot say there was a meeting because he was not there. But the investigating officer, in view of his status with regard to investigation, can give evidence before your Lordship and say that he discovered that there was a meeting; that is not hearsay. However, his latitude ends at that point,” he said.
He further added that that the evidence of what transpired at that meeting could only be given by those present.
“An attempt to narrate the proceedings at the meeting will be hearsay. Even if minutes were produced, the investigating officer can’t tender it; it will be documentary hearsay.
“Therefore, my Lord, the case of Olaoye, as previously cited by the prosecution, does not change the position. Olaoye still restricts the IO to narrating his discovery that there was a meeting.
“I urge your Lordship to expunge any evidence relating to what transpired at the so-called meeting if ever there was any; and in moving forward, the investigating officer cannot give any further evidence as to what transpired at the meeting. I urge your Lordship to uphold this pertinent and important opposition”, he further submitted.
Counsel to the second defendant, Michael F. Lana, in his submissions, said that the prosecutor made a sweeping statement that the evidence of an investigating officer was admissible.
“It is a sweeping statement because not all evidence made by an IO is admissible. Section 37 of the Evidence Act that deals with hearsay does not exempt an investigating officer. It is a principle of law applicable to every type of evidence.
“Section 126 of the Evidence Act that deals with direct oral evidence does not exempt an investigating officer from what he did not see, hear and perceive,” he added.
He, thereafter, urged the court to uphold the objection and discountenance every other argument by the prosecution.
Also, Akinola Oladeji, counsel to the third defendant, aligned with the submissions of the other defense counsels.
Counsel to the third defendant also brought forward an application seeking the varying of bail terms granted his client, Olanrewaju Otiti, such that her passport could be conditionally released to enable travel overseas for medical treatment.
Justice Hassan adjourned the matter to April 9, 2018 for ruling on the argument and further hearing.