Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
A prosecution witness, Dr. Sani Teidi, testifying on Tuesday in the ongoing trial of a serving judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, and two others, before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja, accused the judge of demanding N25m bribe from him while standing trial before him (the judge) between 2013 and 2014.
Teidi, a former Director, Pension Accounts Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, who was testifying as the sixth prosecution witness, said he was made to remain on prison remand for one year and two months because of his refusal to meet the judge’s alleged demand for bribe.
But under cross-examination, the defence team confronted the witness with documents, including a report by the National Judicial Council exonerating Justice Ademola, a serving judge of the Federal High Court, of the bribery allegation and other acts of misconduct.
Teidi, who was in the witness box for over seven hours taking turns to respond to questions from the prosecuting and defence lawyers, said although his wife wrote the petition which informed the report issued by the NJC, he was not aware of the document until about two weeks ago when it was shown to him by the prosecuting counsel.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Justice Ademola, his wife, Olabowale; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi, on charges bordering mainly on giving and receiving of gratification and alleged illegal possession of firearms found with the judge.
In one of the 16 counts preferred against the three defendants, Justice Ademola was specifically accused of attempting to receive N25m as gratification from Teidi, who was then standing trial before the judge on charges bordering on diversion of N4.6bn pension funds.
Led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Segun Jegede, the 57-year-old witness, now the Director, Finance and Account in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, said Justice Ademola refused to sign his release warrant despite meeting the bail conditions.
He said the judge imposed on him “onerous” bail conditions of two sureties in the sum of N500m each, with the total bail sum amounting to N1bn, in April 2013, whereas the earlier judge, Justice Adamu Bello, who was hearing the case before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission initially withdrew it and later re-filed it, had granted him bail in the sum of N10m.
The witness, who obtained a Master’s degree in Accountancy in 1999 and a doctoral degree in Financial Management in 2002, said after struggling to meet the N1bn bail condition imposed on him by Justice Ademola, the judge refused to sign the necessary papers for his release.
He said having been on remand by the order of Justice Ademola since April 2013, it took the Court of Appeal to order his release in May 2014 by granting him bail in the sum of N100m with one surety.
The witness testified that the judge demanded the N25m bribe through an agent named Kingsley. O.
According to him, the said agent met him and left an account number into which the bribe was expected to be paid into.
Teidi said, “My sureties were one Chief Okey and the second one Igbelimeta Farm Project Limited. They now perfected the bail. After it was perfected, my lawyer, S.I. Ameh (SAN), reminded Justice Ademola that our bail conditions had been perfected and the judge said he was aware.
“But the judge said my case was like Boko Haram, kidnapping and terrorism and so he would take his time to study it before he would append his signature. Then the case was adjourned.
“The next time we met in court, Justice Ademola said rain fell on my file so there was no way he could look at it until the file was dry.
“I appeared before him not less than seven times. I was arraigned around April 2013.
“I know why my bail was not approved. I got to know around November/December (2013).
“I got to know that I would not be allowed to go out because the account sent by the agent, Kingsley. O., was not credited.”
Teidi claimed that though he was granted bail, the judge frustrated his efforts to meet the bail conditions by allegedly rejecting the documents submitted by one of his sureties.
Jegede tendered a certified true copy of the Court of Appeal’s judgment granting bail to Teidi, and the document was admitted by the court as an exhibit.
But the defence attacked the evidence of the witness by confronting him with a report by the NJC, exonerating the judge of wrongdoing.
The trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, earlier admitted as exhibits, the NJC report along with the petition sent to the NJC by Teidi’s wife complaining about Justice Ademola’s handling of her husband’s bail and the record of proceedings of the council on the said petition.
The NJC report containing the findings of the council’s panel which investigated the petition was read to the witness by Justice Ademola’s lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN).
The report indicated that the findings of the panel showed that the judge only issued a bench warrant against the witness after failing to appear in court on two different occasions despite being duly notified.
The report also stated that although the prosecution did not ask for the bench warrant, the judge, as a master of his court, made the order for Teidi’s arrest in accordance with his power.
The report also quoted the NJC’s findings as indicating that the alleged “onerous” bail conditions imposed on the witness fell within the discretion of the judge and there was no evidence that the judge acted in “reproach.”
The report stated that the NJC’s investigative panel accepted Justice Ademola’s explanation to the effect that the bail sum was commensurate to the N4.6bn Teidi allegedly stole.
The NJC stated in the report that granting bail was a matter of a judge’s discretion and the judge was not bound by the decision of another judge.
It added that Teidi’s wife was unable to provide the identities of numerous “anonymous calls” from persons asking her to pay N25m bribe for her husband’s release, and so linking the callers to the judge was “a mere suspicion” that could not be legally relied on “no matter how strong the suspicion is.”
The defence also confronted Teidi with an investigative report by the police indicating that one of the witness’ sureties had presented to Justice Ademola in fulfillment of the N1bn bail condition a “forged Certificate of Occupancy.”
Querying how Teidi suddenly became a “friend” of the Department of State Services, the body which arrested Justice Ademola, a defence lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), accused the witness of serving “as a tool in the hand of DSS to do what they wanted you to do”.
The trial continues on Wednesday (today).