Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Monday, December 4, 2017, admitted in evidence three confessional statements tendered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Christian Nwosu.
Nwosu, alongside two other INEC officials, Yisa Olanrewaju Adedoyin and Tijani Bashir, were re-arraigned on May 3, 2017 on an amended six-count charge bordering on receiving gratification to the tune of N264,880,000.00.
At the last adjourned sitting on November 28, 2017, the first defendant, Nwosu, had told the court that the three statements he made to the Commission on December 28, 2016 and March 15 and 22, 2017 were not offered voluntarily.
Counsel to Nwosu, Obinna Okereke, while moving a written address dated November 23, 2017, had told the court that his client was threatened and cajoled to make the statements.
“Justice requires that the interest of the accused should be taken into consideration and it does not lie in the power of prosecution to dictate how the trial of defendant should go. The court should ensure that justice is done.
“The prosecution did not allow the defendant to have access to any legal practitioners, when he was writing his confessional statement.
The prosecution imposed a counsel on him.
“The ACJA, 2015, Section 29(2) & (3) of Evidence Act clearly states the guideline for taking confessional statement from a defendant. But the prosecution did not comply with it; rather, the prosecution forcefully extracted and coercively obtained all statements of December 28, 2016, March 15, 2017 and March 22, 2017 from him,” he had said.
However, in his response, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had urged the court to dismiss the claim by the defense, adding that two witnesses had already been called since the trial began.
Oyedepo, who moved his address orally, further said: “The defendant was dully cautioned when he was making his statement, and he signed the cautionary word when he was making his statement.”
Consequently, Justice Idris had adjourned further hearing till today.
In his ruling at today's sitting, Justice Idris held that the application filed by counsel to the first defendant lacked merit.
The judge, therefore, admitted the statements in evidence as exhibits D1 to D3.
The case was adjourned to January 11, 2018.
The first defendant, Nwosu, had pleaded guilty to receiving the sum of N30 million out of the alleged N23 billion Diezani Alison-Madueke bribe meant to compromise electoral officers before the 2015 general election when they were initially arraigned on April 5, 2017.
Justice Idris had earlier found Nwosu guilty and convicted him. He had also ordered forfeiture of all the landed properties acquired by Nwosu with the alleged proceeds of crime, including the sum of N5m (Five Million Naira) found in his bank account.
Though Nwosu later entered into a plea bargain agreement with the EFCC, terms which the. Judge rejected on the grounds that Nwosu’s offence was heavier than the plea bargain agreement.
In view of this, Nwosu and other accused persons were re-arraigned on May 3, 2017 on an amended six-count charge by the EFCC.
During the May 3 sitting, Nwosu changed his counsel as well as his plea from guilty to not guilty.
Consequently, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had prayed the court to transfer the matter to the Chief Judge for re-assignment on
the grounds that Nwosu had earlier pleaded guilty and was convicted.
Oyedepo had argued that in the event of an accused pleading not guilty after initially pleading guilty, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, states that such a matter should be re-assigned to another judge.
However, counsel to Nwosu, Okereke, had argued that his client pleaded guilty to the initial seven-count charge, while he pleaded not guilty
to the amended six-count charge.
After listening to both parties, justice Idris had ruled that he would continue hearing in the matter on the grounds that Nwosu was re-arraigned on a fresh amended six-count charge, which he pleaded not guilty to.