One of the defendants in the trial of former Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State Wednesday accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of forcing him to implicate the former governor.
Ibrahim Dankaba, the fourth defendant in the trial, speaking through his counsel, Napoleon Idenale, told a state high court that the EFCC threatened and intimidated him to implicate Mr Shema while obtaining his statement.
The trial judge, Maikaita Bako, had adjourned the case to Wednesday for a trial within trial, after his counsel alleged Mr Dankaba wrote his statements under duress.
When the process began, the prosecution counsel, O.I Uket, presented two witnesses, Abubakar Buba and Habu Muhammad, who are staff of the EFCC.
Both of them reaffirmed that the three statements written by Mr Dankaba were obtained voluntarily, in a calm environment, and without threat, coercion or intimidation.
But while cross-examining the witnesses, Mr Idenale insisted that the two investigators told the defendant to implicate the former governor or he would remain in custody.
“On 16th November 2016, you Mr Buba coerced, threatened, and intimidated the fourth defendant (Ibrahim Dankaba) to implicate first defendant (Ibrahim Shema), so that he will go home and will not be charged to court like other local government chairmen, or remain in custody.”
But Mr Buba denied the allegation. He insisted the defendant wrote his statement voluntarily.
He said he was part of the team that interviewed Mr Dankaba, adding that he was interviewed based on new discoveries in the allegations against him.
“In the statement, the defendant erroneously wrote January 25th, 2015 instead of January 25th, 2016, which I corrected before he signed and I counter-signed. It is not true that the statement was obtained under duress,” Mr Buba said.
Under cross-examination, Mr Buba consistently denied some questions put to him on the treatment meted out to the accused before his statements were obtained.
Mr Idenala among other questions asked if Mr Buba was aware that his client was detained in a police station in Katsina State for two days when a search was conducted in his house.
He also asked him if he was aware of the health condition of his client who he said was taken to a clinic while in detention; if he was aware that some operatives of the EFCC and well-armed police officers stormed his house in Katsina during a search operation; and if he was aware that his family and lawyers were denied access to him during his detention.
Responding, Mr Buba said: “I’m not aware the fourth defendant (Mr Dankaba) was threatened and intimidated to implicate the first defendant (Mr Shema). I can’t remember whether he fell ill in detention and was taken to a clinic.”
Though he admitted being in the team that searched Mr Dankaba’s house in Katsina, he denied that “well-armed policemen” were with them during the search.
While cross-examining Mr Buba, counsel to Mr Shema, A. Adedeji, told the court the EFCC kept Mr Dankaba in custody for 20 days after obtaining his statement on January 25, 2016; contrary to Mr Buba’s assertion that the defendant was never detained throughout the period of his statements.
Similarly, Mr Muhammad, who was called to testify before the court, admitted holding a series of meetings with the defendant and some Katsina State government officials, including the state Attorney-General, El Marzuk, Special Adviser to Governor Aminu Masari, Rabe Nasir, and some others before the defendant was asked to write his statement.
However, he said the meetings were to reconcile figures in payment vouchers.
But Mr Muhammad contradicted the testimony of Mr Buba by saying both of them and the defendant’s lawyers were present when the defendant wrote his statements and confirmed that the defendant was detained after writing his first statement on January 25, 2016.
During cross-examinations, he also told the court that no incriminating items were found in the defendant’s house during the search by EFCC operatives.
The EFCC arraigned Mr Dankaba alongside Mr Shema, former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Sani Makana; and former permanent secretary, Lawal Safana, before the court for alleged criminal breach of trust, abuse of office and conversion of public funds to the tune of over N11 billion during the governorship tenure of Mr Shema.
Justice Maikaita Bako adjourned the case to January 23 and 24, 2019, for the continuation of hearing.
At the last adjourned date, the EFCC, through its counsel, Mr Uket, had sought to tender the statement written by Mr Dankaba as evidence. But the defence counsel objected, saying it was obtained under duress and pleaded to the court to allow a trial within trial.
Mr Bako had then fixed Wednesday, November 28 for the commencement of trial-within-trial.
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