Our case against Justice Ademola –FG
Sales Consultant to an auto marketing firm—Coscharis Nigeria Limited, Miss Ifeoma Ofonagolu, on Monday mounted the witness box at an Abuja high court sitting in Maitama to give a graphic detail of how a senior lawyer, Mr Joe Agi, paid N8.4million to her company through electronic transfer for purchase of a high performance BMW 320i car for Ademide, the son of a Federal high court judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
Coscharis Group is a wholly owned Nigerian conglomerate with businesses and interests that span various sectors of the Nigerian economy including automobile. It was founded in 1977 by Dr. Cosmas Maduka and it is the sole representative of the BMW brand in Nigeria.
Ofonagolu was the first witness to give evidence in the celebrated trial of the suspended judge of the Federal high court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
She was led in evidence Monday by the lead prosecution counsel, Mr Segun Jegede.
There was a pin-drop silence in the courtroom of Justice Jude Okeke of the Abuja high court for the period Ofonagolu testified until a time when the prosecution sought to tender a statement by the consultant as exhibit in the case.
But before asking Ofonagolu to mount the witness box, Jegede gave a synopsis of the prosecution’s case against Justice Ademola, his wife and Ajoe Agi in compliance with the provision of Section 300 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) thus: “Cognisance on the burden on the prosecution to prove all the 16 counts beyond reasonable doubt, the prosecution will call 14 witnesses
“Of the 14 witnesses, 12 are fact witnesses, while the other two – the Executive Secretary of the National Judicial Council and the Chief Register of the Federal High Court – have been subpoenaed to produce those documents that are difficult to obtain by the prosecution.
“Among the fact witnesses, whom the prosecution will call, is an officer of the Department of State Services (DSS), who will testify mainly on the search conducted at the first defendant’s residence on October 7, 2016.
“The witness will disclose that, among the items found, were cash sums of N54m, $121,000, two pump action rifles with several rounds of ammunition, held by the first defendant without valid licence,” Jegede said.
He added that the prosecution will also call one Ojima Etuh, a former Legal Assistant to Justice Ademola, to testify as a prosecution witness.
Another, he said, is Dr. Shaibu Teidi, who is to testify on how Justice Ademola allegedly demanded N25m bribe as pre-condition for granting him bail while he was standing trial before the judge some years back.
“Dr. Shaibu Sani Teidi will testify concerning his travails in the hands of the first defendant (Justice Ademola) when the witness was charged before him in connection with pension fund scandal.
“Dr. Teidi will testify on the circumstances leading to the demand of N25m bribe in order to enable the witness to leave the dingy cell of Kuje prison.
“He will cap his testimony with how he took his case to the Court of Appeal and the NJC.
“Your lordship will also hear from Dr. Sani Teidi’s spouse, who petitioned the National Judicial Council and Mr, Faboro who will corroborate his testimony.
“An expert witness will testify on the illegal possession of firearms. In the course of the trial, the prosecution will tender documents to prove the guilt of the defendants.
“At the end of the trial, when the burden of proof in all the 16 counts has been discharged, the prosecution will be asking your lordship to find the three defendants guilty as charged,” Jegede said
Moments after giving a run-down of the Federal Government’s case against Justice Ademola, Ofonagolu was invited to give evidence regarding the BMW 350i high performance car.
Miss Ofonagolu said the negotiation for the purchase of the car began between her and Ademide in December 2014, but was concluded on January 5, 2016 when Agi made payment via bank transfer to Coscharis’ account with Zenith Bank Plc.
When asked if she had heard the name Joe Agi in the course of her work with Coscharis, the witness, who said she had been in the company for about three years, said she became familiar with Agi’s name during the closing of the sales transaction with Ademide.
“The name came up after we had the sales talk about the car. He requested that I sent the quote to him and attention it to Joe Agi.”
When asked to explain why Agi needed to be brought into the picture of the car sales quote, the witness said: “It means that if a customer wants to make payment or purchase a vehicle, he will give the name of the purchaser and whom it should be attentioned to. That could be the person, who is to make payment or handle the transaction.”
The witness continued: “We started the sales talks in December 2014 and it spilled over to January 2015. The deal was closed on January 5, 2015.
“I issued an invoice to Ademide Ademola. The price of the car was N8m and the VAT was N400,000. The price was stated on the invoice.
“The car was paid for through a cash transfer from Joe Agi and Associates. The payment was made once on January 5, 2015.
“Usually, when payment has been made by a customer, he or she contacts the sales person that the payment has been made with respect to a car purchase and then, we, at our own end, will have to liaise with the bank to confirm the payment.
“As soon as we get confirmation from the bank, we issued a receipt. In this case, I was called by Joe Agi. I then went to our accounts department to confirm the payment.
“When he (Joe Agi) called, he said the transfer has been made. And I asked him what name should I look for to confirm the transfer. He said Joe Agi & Associates.
“When we checked, we confirmed that the transfer was made from Joe Agi and Associate’s account into Coscharis’ Zenith Bank account. I then issued a receipt in respect of the transaction in the name of Ademide Ademola.”
The witness added that after the payment was confirmed, the car was delivered to Ademide at 16 Babatunde Anjous Avenue in Lekki, Phase 1, Lagos.
“After receipt is issued with delivery note, a driver and the sales person will have to convey the car to the owner.
“In this case, the car was delivered to 16, Babatunde Anjous Avenue in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
“I went with the driver to deliver the car. I met Ademide. He was around with some friends. He inspected the car. He confirmed it was OK and signed.”
Jegede later tendered the invoice and receipt, dated January 5, 2015 including some documents marked delivery note and checklist.
Trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke admitted the documents and marked them “Exhibit A.”
Ofonagolu said she knew about the case when she appeared before the Department of State Service on December 2, 2016 for questioning following an earlier invitation by the security agency.
Attempt by the prosecution to tender the statement made by the witness to the DSS was opposed by the defence lawyers – Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), who represented Justice Ademola), Robert Clarke (SAN), who represented the judge’s wife) and Jeph Njikonye (for Agi).
Although they noted that the statement was ordinarily harmless, the defence lawyers argued that in the absence of any contradiction between the extra-judicial statement and the evidence on oath of a witness, the Evidence Act did not allow the prosecution to tender such statement as exhibits.
Responding, Jegede expressed surprise about the defence’s position, noting that the objection was strange, because, according to him, the statement was admissible in law.
Justice Okeke then adjourned to today (Tuesday) for ruling.
Earlier, Jegede complained about the condition of the court room.
He said that it was not well ventilated.
He sought that the court’s facilities be either improved or the proceedings be relocated to a more conducive environment.
The defence team shared Jegede’s position, but was inclined to the prompt commencement of the trial.
In a brief ruling, Justice Okeke directed the court’s Registrar to ensure that Jegede’s concern was addressed.
He noted that the court has a central cooling system, which might have been overwhelmed by the large number of people in court.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, her wife and a senior lawyer, Joe Agi are facing a 16 count charge of conspiracy, abuse of office and corruption before a Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja.
The prosecution, in one of the 16 counts in the charge against Justice Ademola, his wife and Agi, accused the judge of receiving gratification of “a BMW saloon 320i, valued at N8. 5m from Joe Odey Agi, through your son, Ademide Ademola, act contrary to Section 8(1)(a) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000.”