A counsel to President Muhammadu Buhari has absolved the president of any role in money the lawyer gave to a judge accused of corruption.
A witness stated in court on Tuesday that the State Security Service, SSS, was told that Kola Awodein, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, gave Justice Adeniyi Ademola N500,000 in 2015.
The witness, Babatunde Adepoju, an operative of the SSS, said the information was provided to the agency by Joe Agi, another senior lawyer charged alongside Mr. Ademola for corruption.
Mr. Adepoju said the SSS did not investigate the claim and that he did not believe the money was a bribe.
On Wednesday, Mr. Awodein confirmed that he did give the judge the money, but as a gift to a friend holding a ceremony.
“It is a fact that the sum of money mentioned was personally paid by me as a friend to Mr. Justice Ademola as a personal gift, as our custom well recognizes and demands, on the occasion of his daughter’s High Society wedding solemnized at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, on the 9th of May 2015, which I attended in person,” Mr. Awodein said in a message distributed by presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina.
The lawyer added that he was “fully convinced then, as I remain today, that I could do no less as a friend of longstanding to fairly reasonably support him on that memorable occasion of his daughter’s wedding.
“Anyone and everyone who knows me would readily and unquestionably testify that I am and have always been a man of impeccable integrity on and off the Courts and that such a record speaks always loudly for itself.”
After PREMIUM TIMES reported the monetary gift from the president’s counsel at a time Mr. Buhari’s certificate controversy was before Mr. Ademola’s court, some Nigerian’s raised highbrows alleging the president may have been in the know.
“The allegations of the so called gift has to be investigated, as such allegations applies to Ricky tarfa. It would be surprising to find out that Buhari actually conceded to ‘gift’ the judge as these lawyers tend to do such for favours from judges and then surcharge their clients without their clients knowing what happened. The lawyer representing Buhari at the time should be questioned,” a commenter, Kayode Olufade, said in a reaction to the story.
Mr. Awodein, however, absolved President Buhari of any role in the “gift”.
“I would conclude by stating categorically and without any equivocation that ANY link whatsoever with Mr. President, or any court case or cases, of my personal gift from my personal resources delivered to Justice Niyi Ademola by myself on that occasion or any suggestion whatsoever that it was anything but such a gift or that it ever came from Mr. President or at his instance or that I was acting, under any circumstances, on his behalf is most malicious, utterly ridiculous and in very very poor and revolting taste and most undeserving of any further comments,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Adesina, in the short statement preceding Mr. Awodein’s also absolved Mr. Buhari of any role.
“Nigerians know that President Buhari challenged the elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, up to the Supreme Court, and not once was he named as trying to compromise any Judge, though some of them were his schoolmates, or contemporary, at one time or the other.
“It is in keeping with the President’s time-tested reputation as a man of truth and integrity. Any attempt to sully that reputation is bound to fail, inexorably,” Mr. Adesina said.
The gift by the president’s counsel was brought to the fore in a bid by Mr. Agi’s lawyer to prove his client’s donations to the judge were not bribes to manipulate judicial process.
Mr. Agi is accused of giving cash and material gifts to Mr. Ademola at a time he had cases in the judge’s court in order to influence the judgements.
Mr. Ademola, his wife, Olubowale, and Mr. Agi are being prosecuted for their alleged roles in the scandal. All of them have denied any wrongdoing.