Justice Sadiq Umar of FCT High Court, Maitama, Abuja, on Wednesday declined to admit as exhibit the statement made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by a former Chief of Naval Staff, retired Vice Admiral Usman Jubrin.
Jubrin is standing trial alongside retired Rear Admiral Bala Msheila, retired Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu and Harbour Bay International Limited, in an alleged Naval property scam.
They were arraigned by EFCC on a four-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy and purchase of a property valued at N600 million from the account of Naval Engineering Services Limited without budgetary provision.
The judge had on Jan. 22 ordered a trial-within- trial to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statement, after Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) counsel to the ex-naval chief, questioned the voluntariness of the statement.
The prosecution counsel, Abdullahi Faruk, had sought to tender the statement through the fifth prosecution witness Chidi Nweke, in the substantive matter.
Ruling on the admissibility of the statement after the conclusion of the trial-within trial, Justice Umar held that the statement violated the provision of Section 29 of the Evidence Act 2011.
According to him, a confessional statement made by an accused person ought to be voluntary, adding that for it to be admitted, the prosecution had the burden of proving that it was made voluntarily.
Umar held that from the evidence of both Nweke and Jubrin during the trial-within-trial, the former Chief of Naval Staff was not invited by EFCC.
The judge said that he only accompanied his wife, Lami, who was invited by the commission, to its office, in company of his friend.
He held that Nweke came to tell him that his wife was not cooperating with interrogators and as such she would not be allowed to go home.
Umar noted that when Jubrin opted to be interrogated, he was told that his son would not be charged to court if he cooperated with the interrogators.
The judge added that during the trial-within- trial, the prosecution failed to prove that the statement was voluntarily made.
He held that there was threat and inducement before Jubrin made his statement to EFCC operatives.
He said: “The statement is hereby marked tendered and rejected.”
He adjourned the matter until June 27 for the continuation of the substantive case.
Meanwhile, the court also ordered the release of the international passports of Jubrin and Msheila to enable them travel to the United Kingdom and United States of America respectively.
The judge ordered that Jubrin should return the passport to the court registrar on or before September 15, while Msheila was ordered to return his, latest by September 20.
Credit: The Eagle Online