A Lagos-based printer, Babajide Jose, who was allegedly swindled of N35.5 million by Deji Abiola, the son of the late Moshood Abiola, took ill on Wednesday while testifying before an Ikeja High Court.
The trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, had to adjourn the matter to June 21, following Jose’s inability to continue with the cross-examination.
Mr. Jose was called to testify by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the accused, who is the second son of the late politician.
Earlier, while being led in evidence by EFCC prosecutor, Omeiza Adebola, the witness narrated to the court how Mr. Abiola had swindled his company, Nurudeen Printers Limited, Okota, Lagos.
Mr. Jose said sometime in March 2008, the company decided to buy a used Speed Master CD105 printing machine and was introduced to the accused.
“The accused told us that he had it and can get it for us and that the machine was in Switzerland.
“On May 10, 2008, he sent me an estimate of the machine that it will cost N118 million.
“The accused said that we will deposit 30 per cent of the money to show seriousness.
“Fifty per cent will be paid after inspection while the remaining balance of 20 per cent will be paid before the machine is dismantled for shipping to Nigeria,” he said.
The witness said Mr. Abiola promised to help him secure a visa to Switzerland for the inspection of the machine.
Mr. Jose claimed that on May 16, 2008, he issued a First Bank cheque of N35.5 million to Abiola, being the 30 per cent deposit the accused had requested for.
“After paying the money, I did not hear from him again for weeks and when I finally did, he told me that the machine was no longer in Switzerland but in Sweden.
“Deji wrote me a letter that the machine is going to cost us more money and requested for another 30 per cent deposit, which I refused.
“I became uncomfortable with the arrangement and so I wrote him back to refund the initial deposit of N35.5 million but he has not done so up till now,” he said.
He said the accused, after failing to help him procure the visa, told him in December 2008 that the initial deposit was lost because they did not inspect the machine.
“I cannot give N35.5 million to somebody and you just tell me that my money is gone because we did not carry out inspection,” the witness said.
Mr. Jose said this prompted him to petition the EFCC on April 17, 2009 before the matter was taken to court.
He, however, disclosed that Mr. Abiola had been making several efforts to settle the matter out-of-court since his arraignment on June 30, 2011.
“After going to the EFCC, the Oba of Lagos called a meeting between my daughter and his brother where he advised us to settle the matter amicably.
“We told him to pay us N20 million and take N15 million but nothing happened after that.
“Just last week, he promised that he will pay N10 million and this morning, his counsel, Chief Philip Jimoh-Lasisi, showed me a N10 million bank draft.
“The lawyer said I would be given the money if I write to the EFCC that I am withdrawing the case so that they can inform the court that they want to discontinue the trial,” Mr. Jose added.
The court admitted as exhibits copies of the estimate sent by Mr. Abiola to the complainant and the N35.5 First Bank Nigeria Plc cheque issued in his favour.
However, under cross-examination by Mr. Jimoh-Lasisi, the witness started shaking and he could no longer answer the questions he was being asked.
Mr. Jimoh-Lasisi, therefore, informed the court that there was no need to continue with the cross-examination, adding that both parties were already committed to an out-of-court settlement.
“The complainant (Jose) has already signed a compromise terms with my client and what is remaining is for him to write to the EFCC.
“The EFCC is the only person that has the discretion to tell the court that they want to discontinue with the matter.
“The bank draft is with me and on my honour, I am willing to give it to him immediately the case is discontinued,” he said.