…Defendants reject witness’ evidence
A People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader in Oyo State, Chief Olarenwaju Otiti, Friday asked the Federal High Court in Lagos for permission to travel abroad to treat a liver problem.
She is on trial with former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, and a former Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District Ayo Adeseun.
They were charged with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be at large.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused them of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known was part of proceeds of an unlawful act, and without going through a financial institution.
They pleaded not guilty.
Otiti, through her lawyer, Akinola Oladeji, promised not to run away if she is allowed to travel.
“The applicant is seeking a conditional release of her passport for a trip to attend to her health challenges,” Oladeji said.
The lawyer said Otiti had been suffering from the ailment for long, and that she was receiving treatment abroad when EFCC asked her to return.
He said his client left her treatment in the US and came to Nigeria.
After making a statement at EFCC, she returned to the US to resume the treatment but was again invited by the EFCC and was subsequently arraigned.
“For the EFCC to call her a flight risk is a most unfair statement. We have stated that the ailment she’s suffering from is a liver disorder,” Oladeji said.
The lawyer said the University Teaching Hospital in Ibadan issued a report that the PDP chief had “two cysts on the left and one on the right”.
“This is just a confirmation that the operation can only be done in the United States of America. We have stated that her complete medical history is with the hospital and indeed she was referred there from Nigeria,” Oladeji added.
The lawyer’s bid to tender the medical report from the Bar was rejected by the court.
Justice Muslim Hassan held that for the report to be valid, it must be filed in form of an affidavit.
Oladeji sought an adjournment to enable him file the affidavit.
Earlier, defence counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Michael Lana and Oladeji had urged the court to expunge evidence given by an EFCC operative Usman Zakari.
The witness had claimed that Mrs. Alison-Madueke allegedly collected N23billion ($115.01million) from three oil marketers ahead of the 2015 general election.
He said Akinjide and others allegedly received N650million cash in March 2015 at the Dugbe branch of a bank in Ibadan on Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s instructions, and that the money was part of N23billion which the former oil minister kept in the bank.
Zakari said the commission received a “Category A intelligence” about a meeting at Mrs Alison-Madueke’s house in December 2014 with a bank Managing Director and some oil marketers.
According to Zakari, she told the bank chief that the oil marketers would bring hard currencies to the bank, and that he should keep the money until further directives.
Zakari said Mrs Alison-Madueke directed the bank to convert the dollars to naira, which was complied with, after which she allegedly directed that the defendants be paid.
The defence counsel, however, contended that Zakari’s testimony was hearsay and was inadmissible by virtue of Section 38 of the Evidence Act.
Justice Hassan adjourned till April 9 for ruling and continuation of trial.