The Federal Government on Monday opened its criminal case, which it instituted before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja, against a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola; his wife, Olubowale; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi.
The lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Segun Jegede, after making an opening statement, called the first among the proposed 14 prosecution witnesses, Ifeoma Ofornagolu.
Ofomagolu narrated how Agi allegedly paid for a BMW 320i car, which she said was delivered by Coscharis Motor Limited to Justice Ademola’s son, Ademide, in January, 2015.
The Federal Government is prosecuting the three defendants on 16 counts bordering on receiving of gratification. Additionally, Justice Ademola was accused of being in illegal possession of firearms.
Among the 16 counts preferred against the accused persons is an allegation that on January 5, 2015, in his capacity as a public servant, Justice Ademola “corruptly received from Joe Odey Agi a BMW Saloon 320i valued at N8,500,000 through your son, Ademide Ademola, as gratification in the exercise of your official functions as a judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria.”
The prosecution also alleged in about five other counts, that Justice Ademola and his wife received gratification of N30m in three instalments of N10m each from Joe Agi and Associates between March 11 and March 26, 2015.
In a separate count, the judge was accused of holding the proceeds of gratification in the sums of N54m, $171,779, €4,400 £80 and R1,010 on October 7, 2016, during the raid by the operatives of the Department of State Services on his residence.
The prosecution described the sums of money as “being gratification received in the exercise of your (Justice Ademola’s) official functions as a judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria.”
Testifying as the first prosecution witness on Monday, Ofornagolu, a sales consultant with Coscharis Motor Limited, said she began a “sales talk” with Justice Ademola’s son, Ademide, in December 2014.
She said in the course of the discussion, which she said “spilled” to January, 2016, Ademide asked her to send a quotation for the BMW car and also to “attention it to Joe Agi.”
Fielding further questions from the prosecutor, she described the car, which she said used to cost N8.5m as of the time the deal was sealed in 2015, but currently valued at N21m, as an automobile “in the family of the luxury brand.”
The witness, who claimed she obtained a Higher National Diploma from the Lagos State Polytechnic and a Masters in Business Administration from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, said, “Yes, I have heard of the name Joe Agi.
“I heard the name during sales talk with Ademide Ademola.
“Ademide asked me to give the quotation in pro forma invoice on the BMW 320i car and attention it to Mr. Joe Agi.
“‘To attention’ means if a customer wants to make payment for the purchase of a vehicle, he will give the name of the purchaser/customer and who it should be given to, which may be the person that is going to make the payment or to handle the transaction.
“I issued an invoice to Ademide Ademola. The price of the car was N8m and the VAT was N400,000.
“The car was paid for through a cash transfer from Joe Agi and Associates. The payment was made once on January 5, 2015.
“When we checked, we confirmed that the transfer was made from Joe Agi’s Zenith Bank account into Coscharis’ Zenith Bank account.
“I issued a receipt in respect of the transaction in the name of Ademide Ademola.”
She said the car was eventually delivered to Ademide at 16 Babatunde Anjous Avenue in Lekki, Phase 1, Lagos.
The witness said, “I went with the driver to deliver the car. I met Ademide; he was around with some friends. He received the car.
“He checked the car, it was OK, and he signed.”
Jegede tendered the invoice and receipt both dated January 5, 2015, as well as a set of documents marked delivery note and checklist.
The documents were admitted by the court as Exhibit A.
The witness confirmed that she knew about the case when she appeared before the DSS on December 2, 2016, for questioning following an earlier invitation by the security agency.
But an attempt by the prosecution to tender the statement, which she made to the DSS during the questioning, was objected to by the defence lawyers, comprising Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) (for Justice Ademola); Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) (for Justice Ademola’s wife); and Mr. Jeph Njikonye (for Agi).
The defence lawyers, in objecting to the admissibility of the statement, argued that in the absence of any contradiction between the extrajudicial statement and the evidence on oath of a witness, the Evidence Act did not allow the prosecution to tender such statement as exhibits.
But the prosecuting counsel said the objection by the defence lawyers was strange, insisting that the statement was admissible in law.
The trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, then adjourned till Tuesday to enable him “to deliver a considered ruling,” considering the nature of the objection and because it may re-occur in the course of the trial.
Earlier, Jegede gave a breakdown of the evidence to be led by the prosecution.
He said, “Cognisance on the burden on the prosecution to prove all the 16 counts beyond reasonable doubts, 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 Registrar of the Federal High Court – have been subpoenaed to produce those documents that are difficult to obtain by the prosecution.”
The prosecuting counsel stated that he would call one Mr. Ojima Etuh, a former Legal Assistant to Justice Ademola to testify as a prosecution witness.
He also said Dr. Shaibu Teidi would also 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.