A former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Gooluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, yesterday said he was “tormented” by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a bid to get him to implicate the former President.
Dudafa said he developed a spinal cord ailment while in detention at EFCC, adding that he was denied adequate medical treatment.
The former presidential aide said all statements he wrote were dictated to him and that he was induced to sign in exchange for his freedom.
Dudafa was testifying in a trial-within-trial, which began at the Federal High Court in Lagos after he claimed statements he made at EFCC were not voluntary.
EFCC arraigned him and Iwejuo Joseph Nna (alias Taiwo A. Ebenezer and Olugbenga Isaiah) before Justice Mohammed Idris on 23-counts of conspiracy and concealment of crime proceeds.
They were accused of conspiring to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N1.6 billion on June 11, 2013. They pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Dudafa said he was arrested last April 17 on a Sunday and kept in detention till Monday evening without anybody explaining why he was arrested.
He said he was kept in detention until April 27 before he was taken to EFCC’s office on Awolowo Road for interrogation, where he made four statements, including an asset declaration form, which he described as a “sham”.
Dudafa said he was denied access to his mobile phone from April 27, and his family was stopped from bringing food to him.
“April 27 till May 12 was so tormenting for me. Sometimes, I was taken out from the detention centre and kept in EFCC office from 8am to 8pm, sometimes till 11pm.
“The ailment I have today is a spinal cord dislocation. It was within that period of torture and agony that my spinal cord got dislocated due to sitting down from morning till night,” he said.
The defendant claimed EFCC denied him access to his lawyers, saying: “I made a request, in fact my lawyers were driven away.”
Dudafa said he was invited to a meeting in which all parties in the case were involved. Everyone else had a lawyer, except him, he claimed.
He said EFCC nominated a lawyer he did not know to represent him. “That was the only statement that was endorsed by a lawyer – a lawyer that was not known to me,” he said.
According to him, EFCC officials gave him paracetamol and aspirin and only allowed him to see an in-house doctor when his situation worsened.
The EFCC doctor, he said, referred him to a military hospital where tests showed he had a spinal cord injury and needed to see a specialist.
“I was not taken to any specialist. My family even offered to bring an orthopedic physician to attend to me, but they refused. While in the cell, I was isolated. They wanted me to say a lot of things.
“They asked me questions about Goodluck Jonathan. In my statements at the time, I stated that every function I discharged was official because I acted based on instruction.
“I was dehumanised to the extent that I got scared of people walking past me,” he said.
Dudafa accused EFCC investigators of trying to breaking him so he could do their bidding.
He said an investigator, Orji Chukwumau, once asked him: “So, you’re still strong?”
The former presidential aide said EFCC even extended the ill-treatment to his family, freezing his wife’s and children’s schools savings accounts “in a bid to frustrate and break me down”.
He said on May 20, Chukwuma took him to the Head of Operations in Lagos, Iliasu Kwabai, who told him that the Federal Government was only interested in recovering stolen money because there was not enough money to fund the budget.
“They told me they only wanted to recover money and that they needed my cooperation. My response was ‘no’ though my freedom was paramount to me. Iliasu said I should return money for my freedom.
“The Director of Operation threatened me, saying I would remain in detention forever unless I cooperated. He told me that my freedom was dependent upon the release of the money. My wife and children could not feed. Everything became a yardstick for my freedom. I had no objection to what he was saying.
“Until May 20, my statements were largely dictated to me. My health condition was deteriorating. On May 30, my family raised an alarm telling the world that EFCC refused to treat me,” Dudafa said.
According to him, EFCC eventually seized an unspecified amount of money from him, yet did not release him as promised.
“On June 1, they went to the bank and the money was released to them, still they refused to let me go. They asked me to bring sureties, and they arrested up to 40 members of my family and friends. For fear of being arrested, all my friends and family deserted me,” Dudafa said.
The defendant said EFCC officials again told him he was about to be released and asked him to attest to all the statements he purportedly made. He said when he realised that he did not make the statements voluntarily, he raised objections.
He said a video that was shown in court of where he attested to the statements was doctored.
According to him, all the points in the video, where he raised objections, were deliberately blurred or made blank.
“I was saying: Let it be clear that the statement was largely dictated. These statements were teleguided by EFCC and dictated. I was less than a human being while at EFCC. I couldn’t even spell my name at some point. I was not physically threatened, but I was mentally threatened,” Dudafa said.
During cross-examination by EFCC’s prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo, Dudafa admitted that he was cautioned before making the statements. He said he was also never forced to admit to committing any crime in the statements.
But he insisted he was asked to sign the statements, saying: “Most of the signatures were done the day I was released.”
Earlier in the trial-within-trial, Chukwuma and an operative Akeem Lasisi, testified that Dudafa made his statement voluntarily.
The duo said they cautioned the suspect before he made his statements, adding that he was not forced to write anything against his will.
EFCC accused the defendants of concealing the N1.6 billion through a company, Seagate Property Development and Investment Ltd, an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 17(a).
They were also accused of knowingly concealing proceeds of crime through Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd in the sum of N399, 470,000.00, among others.
The trial-within-trial continues today.