A witness in the ongoing trial of a Federal High Court judge, Adeniyi Ademola, has explained how the State Security Service, SSS, conducted its investigations before charges were drawn against the defendants.
Mr. Ademola is facing trial alongside his wife, Olubowale, who is the immediate past Head of Service of Lagos State, and Joe Agi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The witness, Babatunde Adepoju, an SSS official who led the investigations into the alleged offences committed by the defendants, said he was assigned to the case after a search warrant was executed at the residence of the defendant in October.
Mr. Adepoju explained that he was assigned to investigate the matter following the recoveries made during the search at the residence of the defendants, and other allegations, including those contained in a petition written against Mr. Ademola.
“There was also the allegation that the judge used his position as a FHC judge and his close ties with Senator Ahmed Tinubu to influence the appointment of his wife as head of service, Lagos State.
“My duty was also to conduct follow-up investigations as regards the monetary recoveries in Justice Ademola’s apartment”, said Mr. Adepoju, who described himself as a well-read investigative officer.
He however added that Mr. Ademola denied influencing his wife’s appointment, adding that the judge explained that his wife was the most senior permanent secretary in Lagos State at the time of her appointment.
Mr. Adepoju told the court that the recoveries made from Mr. Ademola’s residence included local and foreign currencies in hundreds of thousands, as well as two firearms belonging to Mr. Ademola and another judge, A.R. Mohammed.
According to Mr. Adepoju, the SSS also employed a ballistician who checked the rifles found at the residence of Mr. Ademola during the search in October.
After checking the firearms, Mr. Adepoju said the guns were of the category of prohibited ammunition which could only be licensed at the discretion of the President of the country.
He added that although Mr. Ademola had confirmed that the guns, which had two different licences, (one for himself and the other for Mr. Mohammed), belonged to the two judges, Mr. Mohammed denied ownership of the rifle.
The SSS operative further said there were also allegations of bribery against the first defendant, which according to his principal, influenced the order by the defendant for the release of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Adepoju also told the court that of particular reference in his investigation was a set of payments made in three tranches to the account of Mrs. Ademola shortly before certain court orders were made by Mr. Ademola, in a case involving a client of Mr. Agi.
“In my further investigation on the connection between Mrs. Ademola and Agi, I tried to establish if Barr. Agi had cases pending or concluded before Justice Ademola and I discovered that they actually had cases in court,” he said.
“Two among the cases that raised eyebrows were of AMCON vs. FRN and Friday Upkong vs. Chief of Naval Staff. These two cases involved huge sums of money.
“Both cases emanated from Calabar, Cross-River State, Justice Ademola’s previous posting. In the AMCON case, three garnishee orders were granted by Justice Ademola in favour of Joe Agi’s client, which is Linas International Limited”.
Speaking further, Mr. Adepoju explained how his department arrived at the allegation that Mr. Agi had paid N30 million into the account of Mr. Ademola to influence a judgement.
The witness said the money was paid by two maritime businessmen, Ken Hubert and Bassey Bassey. According to the witness, the men paid the sum of $150, 000 which was later converted to naira by Mr. Agi to the tune of N37 million.
“According to Joe Agi, the conversion rate was N37 million, but he remitted N30 million to Ms. Olubowale’s account”, the witness stated.
During cross-examination, however, Mr. Adepoju said the allegations of influencing the appointment of Mrs. Ademola, made against her husband was a verbal brief given to him by his superior; adding that as an investigative officer, he has the discretion to either accept the brief or refuse it, based on evidence at his disposal.
In response to Mr. Adepoju’s statement on influencing Mrs. Ademola’s appointment, the defence lawyer asked whether he had any such evidence and he responded in the negative.
Mr. Adepoju also said he did not charge Mr. Ademola based on the allegations contained in the cited petition against him due to insufficiency of evidence.
“I am trained to go through any fact finding quest with an objective mind. These are mere allegations subject to be confirmed or refuted, based on supporting documents,” he answered.
Asked whether he found any available evidence incriminating Mr. Ademola with allegations of bribery in Messrs. Dasuki and Kanu’s cases, the witness answered in the negative.
He also said he could not provide a link between the first defendant and any case in court involving the maritime businessmen, Messrs. Hubert and Bassey, who he had said paid $150, 000 to Mrs. Ademola’s account.
Mr. Adepoju also answered in the negative when asked if there was a link between the case involving Friday Ukpong and the maritime businessmen.
Reading through a document provided by the defence counsel, Mr. Adepoju confirmed that the money was paid by the businessmen, shortly before a wedding of Mr. Ademola’s daughter.
Mr. Adepoju also confirmed that the ballistician whose report on the rifles were recorded, was invited in January, months after the case was filed.
He however added that the second ballistician was invited because the Service was not satisfied with the investigation first conducted by the police.