A Nigerian judge, who granted bails to people the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was prosecuting for corruption, and repeatedly blasted the government for disobeying court orders, is now being prosecuted for corruption himself.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola; his wife, Olabowale; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi, are facing many charges in court, including giving and receiving gratification to influence the course of justice.
On Wednesday, the government prosecutors tendered in court bags of cash and guns as well as other items allegedly recovered by the operatives of the Department of State Services from the house of Justice Ademola, a judge of the Federal High Court, who had granted bail to Nigeria’s former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The cash and guns were recovered in October last year and the Federal Government tendered the evidence on Wednesday before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, Abuja.
The items were tendered through the DSS’ Exhibit Keeper, Mr. Umar Ahmed, who appeared in court as the 11th prosecution witness in the ongoing joint trial of Justice Ademola; his wife, Olabowale; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi.
The prosecution is being led by Mr. Segun Jegede.
On Wednesday, the DSS’ witness, Mr. Umar, identified the items brought into the courtroom and said to have been recovered from the house of Justice Ademola during a raid last October.
Umar said the items, brought to court in three separate bags, were made up of N54m; $171,779; €4,400; £80 and R1,010 (Indian Rupee).
Other items brought to the courtroom included two Avar Magnum Pump Action gun, bearing the names of Justice Ademola and another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice Ahmed Mohammed.
The guns were accompanied with original copies and photocopies of the licences bearing Justices Ademola and Mohmammed’s names.
There were also two cartridges – a red head of 25 pieces and a white head of 10 pieces, among the items tendered, The Punch newspaper reported.
The newspaper added:
Umar also identified two iPads and an 8GB flash drive as part of the items recovered from Justice Ademola’s house during the October 7, 2016 raid on the judge’s house.
Umar said four mobile phones belonging to the judge were also recovered from the house.
He said the phones were however returned to the judge after taking them “to the lab for exploitation.”
“The iPads too were taken to the lab for the same purpose,” he said.
According to the witness, the phones were returned to Justice Ademola but the iPads were not.
Apart from the N39.5m contained in a ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bags, the rest of the cash and other recovered items were contained in sealed transparent cellophane with different identification numbers.
While identifying the items, Umar said, “The white bag contains 12 bundles of N1,000 notes, making N500,000 per bundle. The total is N6m.
“The small black bag with a design contains 17 bundles of N1,000 each which equal to N8.5m.
“The ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ (grey in colour) contains 79 bundles making N39.5m.”
He also gave a breakdown of the dollar denominations as comprising 51 bundles of $100 bills, as well as other lower dollar denominations.
He confirmed the dollar currencies to be $121,779 in total and the rest of the cash as €4,400; £80 and R1,010 (Indian Rupee).
He said he received the items on October 10, 2016, which was two days after the DSS raid.
Umar said, “I got to office in the morning of October 10, 2016 and I saw honourable judges, about six or seven of them. Then later in the evening, Mr. Ike Onuoha, who happened to be the leader of one of the operatives that conducted the raid told me about the items recovered during their raid.
“He came up with the items with the forwarding letter, search warrant, and the list of items recovered from the accused person’s house.
“He brought them and I cross-checked with the list of items he gave me. Then I took custody of them. Taking custody means I have to take them and preserve and keep.”
The defence lawyers comprising, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) and Mr. Jeph Njikonye, said they had no objection to the admissibility of the items as exhibits. The trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, subsequently admitted all the items as exhibits.
After the exhibits were admitted, Justice Okeke invited the Director of Litigation of the FCT High Court, Mr. Madugu Mohammed, to make an arrangement for the safe keeping of the money.
The prosecution and the defence lawyers eventually reached an agreement to hand over the money to Mohammed for onward transfer to a “deposit account.”
The judge ordered that the cash sums marked as Exhibits X, Z, BB, CC, DD, EE and FF, must always be made available to the court whenever the need for them arose.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyers, Umar admitted that there were other items, mostly cheque books, recovered from Justice Ademola but not yet returned to him.
“I do not decide what to bring to court,” the exhibit keeper said.
Earlier, a banker with Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Malik Babatunde, who testified as the 10th prosecution witness, informed the court that Justice Ademola transferred N175m from his (Justice Ademola’s) account to Don Parker Properties’ account on January 24, 2014.
Reading from the judge’s statement of account, which was tendered and admitted as exhibits along with other documents produced by the bank on Wednesday, Babatunde said the two transactions were marked as “sale of properties” on the statement of account.
Under cross-examination by the defence lawyers, the witness confirmed that there was no entry around March 11, 2014, showing either lump sum of N30m or N10m was transferred from the wife of Justice Ademola (Olabowale) to the judge’s account.
He also confirmed that there was no regulation or policy barring civil servants from paying for properties from their accounts.
The trial continues on Thursday.