The Department of State Services on Tuesday gave an account of its raid on the official residence of a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, on October 7, 2016.
The leader of the DSS team, which carried out the raid, Mr. Ike Onuoha, gave the details of the operation when he appeared before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, as the second prosecution witness in the ongoing joint trial of Justice Ademola; his wife, Olabowale; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi.
The Federal Government is prosecuting the three defendants on 16 counts bordering mainly on receiving of gratifications.
Ihuoha, who said he led the eight-man team that searched Justice Ademola’s house, entered the witness box on Tuesday shortly after a sales representative of Coscharis Motor Limited, Ifeoma Ofornagolu, who testified as the first prosecution witness ended her oral evidence on how Justice Ademola’s son, Ademide, allegedly received a BMW 320i car described by the prosecution as a gratification meant for the judge, from Agi.
Led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Segun Jegede, the witness testified on Tuesday that Justice Ademola lied to be out of town when the DSS operatives visited his house for the purpose of searching it on October 7, 2016.
Ihuoha said his team was directed to search the judge’s residence based on petitions and information relating to incriminating items in the judge’s possession.
He said his team was armed with a duly signed search warrant, but due to the uncooperative attitude of the judge, the operatives had to break some doors to find the judge and recover some items including cash.
He said when his team arrived the judge’s house, they could not gain entry because the security guards said only the judge’s cook identified as Ken, had the keys.
The witness said, “Ken eventually came and told us the judge was out of town.
“We then asked him to call the judge on his phone. We did so because we had reasons to believe that the judge was, in fact, at home.
“When we entered the premises, we called on Ken to call the judge with his mobile phone. Ken called the judge severally but he refused to pick. Much later, the judge sent a text message that he was not in town. After repeated calls, he switched off his phone. At that point, we had no option but to force open the main door. When we entered, we saw Justice Ademola in the master’s bedroom upstairs in his night wears. That was few minutes after 12 midnight.”
Ihuoha, however, said his team granted the judge’s request to allow his lawyer (Agi) to arrive before starting the search.
He said, “As we continued our search on the ground floor, we encountered a locked bedroom.
“We requested the keys, but we were not given. We then had no option but to force open the door. Inside the bedroom, we saw a locked wardrobe which we also had to force open when the keys were not made available to us.”
According to him, the sums of N39.5m in N1,000 denomination; N8.5m in N1,000 denomination; N6m; £121,179; 4,400; £80 pounds and 1,010 Indian Rupees, were found in bags planted in different locations in the house.
He said, “Inside the wardrobe, we found a Ghana-must-go bag containing various N1,000 denomination notes to the tune of N39.5m after counting it on the spot. We also found two black pump action rifles and 35 life cartridges of ammunition. We also found a silver-coloured flash drive.”
Ihuoha added that his team found another locked room where his team mates found the sum of N8.5m in N1,000 denomination.
He said the money was found inside a black-and- white medium-sized bag which was locked up in a wardrobe.
The DSS operative said his team also found “in the master’s bedroom, in an open wardrobe, a black bag where we found the sum of N6m, 121,179 US dollars, 4,400 Euros, 80 pounds, 1,010 Indian Rupees.
“We also recovered six ATM cards, eight cheque books, eight deposit slips for various banks, two firearm licences – one for Honourable Justice A.R. Muhammed, the other for Honourable Justice Adeniyi Ademola. We also recovered two Apple ipads.”
Under cross-examination, Ihuoha confirmed that the licences for the rifles were renewable and that their issuance and renewal were the responsibilities of the police.
Ihuoha said his investigation did not extend to interviewing Justice A.R. Muhammed to ascertain the reason why a gun was licensed in his name but found in the residence of Justice Ademola.
He also said he was not aware that ordering the release of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra from the DSS’ custody by Justice Ademola was the judge’s offence that prompted the search of his house.
The witness maintained that the operation followed a series of petitions, intelligence and information gathered.
He, however, said he could not provide the sources of the information, because they “are classified.”
Earlier, the trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, refused to admit as an exhibit, a statement made to the DSS by the first prosecution witness, Ofornagolu.
The statement was tendered by the prosecution on Monday, but was objected to by defence lawyers comprising, Messrs Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Robert Clarke (SAN) and Jeph Njikonye.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Okeke upheld the objection by the defence lawyers.
The judge in rejecting the document, said although it was relevant to the case, such “extrajudicial statement” was only admissible when a party “seeks to contradict the evidence already given by the witness on oath.”
During cross-examination, Ofornagolu had confirmed that the transaction for the purchase of the BMW car which was paid for by Agi was only between Cosharis and Ademide and did not involve Justice Ademola, Ademide’s father.
Justice Okeke adjourned the matter till Wednesday for further trial.