An operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Modupe Jimoh, yesterday testified before a Federal High Court Lagos, that a former Military Commander, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe made a voluntary statement to the anti-graft Agency in relation to N8.5 billion fraud charges.
Atewe, a former Military Commander of the Niger-Delta Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield, is charged by the EFCC alongside a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and two other staffs of the Agency, Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga.
They are standing trial on an amended 22 count charge bordering on fraud.
The prosecution had opened its case in February 2017 and had called its first witness, Mr. Nkem Ahidjo, an operative with the commission.
In the cause of trial, the defence had raised objection to the tendering of the statement of Atewe, on the grounds that it was not obtained voluntarily.
Justice Ayokunle Faji had then ordered a trial-within-trial, to test the voluntariness of the statement of the accused.
When trial-within-trial continued yesterday, the cross-examination of a prosecution witness, Mr. Adamu Yusuf was concluded.
The prosecution then called on its next witness, Mrs Jimoh. Led in examination by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness told the court that her schedule of duty includes the investigation of Economic and Financial Crimes.
She affirmed that she knew the accused (Atewe), whom she said featured in an investigation by the commission, which had received intelligence that NIMASA transferred the sum of N8 billion and some fractions, to the account of JTF operation Pulo Shield.
The prosecutor then called for exhibit X, which is the statement of the accused, and asked the witness for her reaction to the allegation that the statement of the accused was not obtained voluntarily.
The witness replied: "I am surprised; the commission sent invitation to the defendant which he honoured and reported to the commission on May 16, 2016.
"When he came in, we showed him facts and documents found in the course of our investigation and he told us that he had things to say in his defence, which he volunteered to put down in writing.
"So, I cautioned him in writing, in the presence of my colleagues, Adamu Yusuf and Boniface Uzoechi and later, read it out to him that he is not obliged to say anything except he wishes to do so, adding that whatever he says will be taken down in writing, and given in evidence.
"In response, he said he understood, and then continued to volunteer his statement. On May 19, 2016, he told the commission that he would like to volunteer additional statements. He was cautioned and this took place in the presence of my colleagues, Adamu and Boniface."
On the question whether the accused was oppressed, threatened or assaulted in the course of volunteering his statement, the witness said no. Continuation of the trial-within-trial has been adjourned to March 6.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to divert N8.5billion from Operation Pulo Shield between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015, using seven companies.