My statement to EFCC was not voluntary, former Air Vice Marshal tells court

•Trial-within-trial to commence Nov 4

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Apo, Abuja, on Tuesday, slated November 4, 2016 to commence a trial-within-trial to authenticate the voluntariness of the statements of the former Air Officer in charge of Tactical Air Command, Makurdi, Air vice Marshal (AVM) Rufus Ojuawo, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Ojuawo is standing trial before Justice Mahawai Baba Idris on a two-count charge for allegedly receiving a gift of N40 million and a car valued at N29.2million from a contractor, with the Nigerian Airforce (NAF), Mr Hilma Abubakar of Societe D’ Equipments Internationaux Nig Ltd.

At the resumed trial in the matter yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Francis Jirbo, led the first and the second prosecution witnesses in evidence. The first prosecution witness was cross examined and evidences were tendered as exhibits through him and the second prosecution witness, Junaid Sa’aid,  was being cross examined by the defence counsel, Raph Ajabo, before the court adjourned for the trial within trial.

The prosecution wanted to tender the written statements of the defendant (Ojuawo) dated February 2, 9, 10, 16, 22, 2016 as exhibits before the court but, was vehemently opposed by the defence counsel, on the ground that the statements were not voluntarily made by the defendant.

The prosecution counsel, in his submissions, asked the court to discountenance the call for trial within trial.

After hearing arguments in support of the call for trial within trial, the trial judge, Justice Mahawai Baba Idris, over ruled the objection of the prosecution and fixed the November 4 to commence the trial within trial, to know whether the statement of the defendant was voluntarily given to the anti-corruption agency.

Earlier, Junaid Sa’aid, the second prosecution witness and a member of the team that investigated the case against the defendant, told the court that investigation revealed that the defendant accepted a Range Rover jeep, worth N29.2 million, as gift to the defendant by a contractor, Abubakar Hilma, adding that the defendant confirmed the receipt of the car and the sum of N40 million from the contractor, who is now at large.

AVM Ojuawo was on a N10 million bail granted him by the court, with a surety in the like sum.

The surety, according to the trial judge, must be a civil servant not below the rank of an Assistant Director.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against him by the EFCC.

Until his arrest by the EFCC on February 7, 2016, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, AVM Ojuawo was carrying out his duties as the Air Officer Commanding the Tactical Air Command, Nigerian Air Force, Makurdi.

He was picked while on his way to Stuttgart, Germany, on national assignment as a member of the Armed Forces delegation to United State African Command (USAFRICOM), where he was scheduled to deliver a keynote address on issues bordering on the speedy conclusion of the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency.