Law News
Keyamo, Ohakim’s lawyers clash over threat to witness’ life

Hot verbal exchange between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, and lawyers defending a former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, who is being prosecuted for money laundering charges, stalled proceedings before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday.

The proceedings scheduled for cross-examination of the second prosecution witness, Mr. Abu Sule, could not go on Tuesday, following an apprehension expressed by Keyamo that the witness’ life was being threatened allegedly by moves, recently taken by Ohakim’s second son, Emeka, to find out the residential address of the witness.

The defence team, led by Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), and who appeared with Chief Chris Uche (SAN), did not take the allegation lightly.

The situation almost degenerated into a brawl as Kalu, who reacted angrily, accused Keyamo of plotting to destabilise the defence with an allegation which he said ought to have been resolved without being mentioned in the open court.

The judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who apparently was taken aback by the outburst of the warring parties, was forced to adjourn till Wednesday for “tempers to calm down.”

Ohakim, who was Imo State governor between 2007 and 2011, is facing three counts of money laundering arising from his alleged purchase of House 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No. 1098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, Abuja, with a $2.29m cash payment, which was said to be then an equivalent of N270m in November 2008.

He was also accused of failing to declare the property as part of his assets when asked by the EFCC to do so.

The prosecution said the offences bordering on cash payment of N270m violated section 15(1)(d) and section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

Sule, who had testified on December 7, 2015 as the second prosecution witness in the case, was the Managing Director of Tweenex Consociates H.D. Ltd., the company which Ohakim allegedly used to conceal his ownership of the property.

At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Keyamo rose to raise the alarm of a threat to Sule’s life, an allegation that he predicated on a call placed to him by the witness on Monday complaining of moves being made by one of Ohakim’s children to find out his (Sule’s) residential address.

Keyamo said, “The witness called me around 9am yesterday (Monday) informing me that the second son of the defendant, Emeka, went to his office at Asokoro and made inquiries about his residential address.

“He (Emeka) asked three people about the address. He asked from one Itakpo and Okoh, who are both taxi drivers, and also from one Architect Sola. But they refused to give the address to him.

“We don’t want to distract the court. We would have consulted with the defence, but this is not the issue of counsel to counsel because the defence cannot protect the witness. It is the court that can make words of caution to the other parties and if.”

Keyamo said he was prepared to file necessary application to enable him to produce in court the three persons contacted by Emeka for the residential address of the witness.

Apparently dissatisfied by the allegation, Kalu, said the issue was one that should have been settled somewhere else and not in the open court.

Kalu said, “I have no doubt that this allegation was meant for the purpose of destabilising the defence. When we were waiting for this matter to be called, he (Keyamo) had the opportunity to discuss the issue with either the counsel or the father of the son, but he didn’t raise any caution.

“In African tradition, when a young boy misbehaves, the attention of his father or mother should be drawn to it.

“We find this issue very disturbing. It is on record that the PW2 testified on December 7, 2015 and only yesterday, the young would go and find out the residence of the witness.

“Since Keyamo refused to give the defence opportunity to investigate the matter, we urge the court to dismiss this story.”

He also dared Keyamo to go ahead and file the application as he threatened in order to “test the veracity of the allegation.”

Keyamo, also again jumped on his feet to protest against what he described as an attempt by Kalu to “dent” his integrity.

“I will never treat the issue of threat to life in private,” he said as he resumed his seat.

The judge, who seized the opportunity provided by a sudden moment of ceasefire between the parties, struggled to express his dissatisfaction about how the event turned out, ended up saying that he was short of words.

Chris Uche (SAN), who also appeared with Kalu, also said, “We are all disturbed.”

But Keyamo rose again saying that he would not address the issue in private due to the “outrage expressed by the defence”

He said, “I will not treat this matter in private. With this outrage from the defence, I will not treat the matter in private.

“It is my prerogative to decide how I go about my case.”

At that point the judge directed that the matter should be adjourned till noon on Wednesday (today).

Fielding questions from Keyamo, the witness said the house was not a gift from Ohakim, adding that he handed over the sales agreement and deed of assignment to Ohakim.

He said, “After we perfected the purchase we renovated the house for one and a half years.”

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