Nsikakabasi Akpan-Jacobs, a pastor charged with defrauding Mrs Titi Atiku, the wife of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of N918 million, has alleged that he was detained for three weeks by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja on Mrs Atiku’s orders.
Akpan-Jacobs made the revelation on Wednesday at an Ikeja High Court on the second day of the trial-within-trial proceedings to determine the voluntariness of his statements to the anti-graft agency.
While being led in evidence by Mr Amos Ibe, his defence counsel, Akpan-Jacobs said: “I was first arrested by the Lagos office of the EFCC, on the day when I honoured their invitation, I gave statements at various times to different operatives namely– Mr Dapo, Mr Kabir, Mr Lawal as well as a team of investigators comprising a lady and two men.
“I received an unexpected call from the EFCC on Feb. 5, 2009 which I honoured and when I arrived, I was taken straight to the airport.
“When I asked what was wrong, they told me that it was based on ‘orders from above’, I immediately called my wife and lawyer to inform them of the development.
“When I arrived in Abuja, I was taken to an underground detention facility, the sureties in my bail by the EFCC were to be two directors in the civil service, who had landed property in Abuja.
“When I saw the bail conditions, I told the second defendant that these people want to keep me here in perpetuity.”
The defendant, who is Titi’s business partner, alleged that he was taken from the underground detention facility belonging to the EFCC in Abuja and was interrogated by Mr Pascal, Mr Oron, and Mr Baba-kura, operatives of the EFCC.
According to him, if his written statement was not satisfactory, operatives will shred the document and order him to write a fresh statement containing sentences approved by them.
“Baba-kura, who was the head of the unit, acted like he owned the whole world and My Lord, to be honest, I gave it back to them.
“However, when I was released, they were not going to budge; so, I wrote the statements.
“While in Abuja, I had pneumonia, high blood pressure and the various times I went back to my cell, I had to lie down because I was standing all day.
“My Lord, Mr Chima (a member of Titi Atiku’s legal team) read the statements I wrote to make sure I was writing what they wanted.
“I did not give any undertaking while I was detained, an undertaking was brought to me by Mr Chima which I signed.
“I signed the undertaking to save the second defendant because the EFCC put so much pressure on him to turn against me and out of pity, I had to sign the undertaking.
“All the statements I wrote were signed but not dated, I dated all my statements in one day under the instruction of the EFCC, I did not have access to my phones as well as my lawyer, who was within reach.
“I never saw Florence Doregos (Mrs Atiku) at the EFCC office, she never came despite the EFCC operatives telling me that she would come.
“I want the court to reject the statements I gave to the EFCC,” Akpan-Jacobs pleaded.
Earlier during proceedings, a lawyer, Mr Ikhide Daniels, testified that the EFCC denied him access to Akpan-Jacobs and Abdulmalik Ibrahim, the second defendant while they were in custody in Abuja.
He told the court:“On Feb. 5, 2009, on my way to the Court of Appeal, I got a distress call from the wife of the second defendan that the EFCC had invaded their residence and their premises sealed off.
“I got a call from an unidentified person that they were en route to Abuja, I got to Abuja at about 3.30 pm or 4.00 pm and I got to the EFCC office about 30 to 35 minutes later.
“The team that took the defendants to Abuja was the Chairman’s Special Monitoring Unit, I requested to see the first and second defendants but they never obliged me.”
Daniels also disputed the Oct. 24 testimony of Dickson Graymond, a retired detective of the EFCC, that the Akpan-Jacobs gave his statements voluntarily.
The lawyer alleged that the defendants were brought to Abuja from Lagos due to Atiku’s influence.
“In Abuja, I asked Graymond about their bail and he said that I should tell Akpan-Jacobs to cooperate with the EFCC.
“Graymond said that there was a special order from above to bring the defendants to Abuja and that is why the case was assigned to the chairman’s team.
“The defendants spent three weeks in Abuja, I was in Abuja to make sure that they had legal representation and to secure their release but the only time I had access to them was the night they were released.
“After we left Abuja for Lagos, their spirits were down and they were in shock necessitating our fundamental human rights suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
“The EFCC gave a lot of subtle, draconian threats while they were in custody such as ‘there are orders from above’ and ‘eyes are watching you’.
“We went to Federal High Court to nullify the statements and undertaking on the grounds that they were not given voluntarily.
“Graymond, in his testimony, said that their office at the FCDA was an open office, that statement isn’t true, the EFCC office at the FCDA had little cubicles that does not allow one to see what’s going on inside.
“It was not an open office because I could not see all that was going on there,” he said.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Babatunde Sonoiki, while cross-examining Daniels, alleged that the lawyer never came to Abuja to see his clients.
Sonoiki also denied that the Abuja office of the anti-graft agency had a detention facility and that the disputed undertaking was not made by Akpan-Jacobs while he was in EFCC custody in Abuja.
Responding, Daniels said: “I came to your Abuja office, your log book will show that I was there, I was not there when the undertaking was given by Akpan-Jacobs because I was denied access to him.
“I am not aware that Akpan-Jacobs brought a manager’s cheque to EFCC Abuja as a result of the undertaking.
“The FCDA where the Chairman’s Special Unit is based had no detention centre, the detention centre is located somewhere else, the location I cannot remember.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had charged Akpan-Jacobs, Ibrahim, a lawyer; and Dana Motors Ltd with a 14-count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing and fraudulent conversion of property worth N918 million belonging to THA Shipping Maritime Services Ltd.
THA Shipping Maritime Services Ltd, a company created in 2000, is owned by Mrs Atiku, Akpan-Jacobs and Fred Holmes, her German business partner.
Mrs Atiku was allegedly the majority shareholder with 49 per cent shares, while Messrs. Holmes and Akpan-Jacobs each had 25 per cent shares.
Akpan-Jacobs, who also doubled as the company’s Managing Director and Secretary, was alleged to have gone to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to alter the shareholding in his favour and forged the company’s board resolutions.
Under the new shareholding arrangement, he allegedly allotted 51 per cent shares to himself and 24.5 percent shares each to Mrs Atiku and Mr Holmes.
According to the EFCC, welding a fraudulent shareholding power, Akpan-Jacobs also sold a property belonging to the company to Dana Motors Nigeria Ltd for N918 million.
The property is located at Plot C63, Amuwo-Odofin Commercial Layout, along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos.
Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye adjourned the case until Dec. 12 for the conclusion of the trial-within-trial.