A staff of the chambers of Rickey Tarfa & Co. declined taking a polygraph (lie detector) test in an investigation into an allegation of offering gratification to a judge, a detective claimed on Thursday.
Umar Mohammed, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission detective, told an Ikeja Special Offences Court on Wednesday said that Esther Agbo refused to undergo the test.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mohammed, a Polygraph Examiner testified at the trial of Agbo and Justice Mohammed Yunusa, a dismissed Federal High Court Judge, charged with corruption.
Citing his credentials, Mohammed said he received training at the American International Institute for Polygraph in Atlanta, Georgia, US and remained a member of the American Polygraph Association.
The detective was led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Ali Adah.
He said that as part of an investigation into the corruption allegation against Yunusa, on May 31, 2017, the head of the EFCC Polygraph Unit received a memo from the headquarters, Abuja, to conduct a polygraph test on Agbo.
He said that the task was assigned to him on June 1, 2017.
He said: “I was contacted by the second defendant (Agbo); she said that she was asked to call me via the investigation team of the Lagos Zonal Office.
“After we spoke, I told her to report to our zonal office in Abuja on June 4, 2017, which she did.
“On arrival, myself and a colleague, Mohammed Bello, interviewed her and she told us about a matter and said that the Lagos office was investigating her.
“She said that it was on that note that she was asked to come over because the investigating team was not satisfied with her statement.’’ Mohammed testified that he explained to Agbo the rudiments of a polygraph test, noting that individuals were not compelled to take the test, and that consent was paramount.
He said: “She said that we should give her time to go and think about it and discuss with her husband which we agreed with.
“On June 7, 2017, she called me on phone and informed me that she was not going to take the test, saying that her husband advised her against it.
“I told her to come over to put it in writing, which she did in the form of a statement.”
The prosecution sought to tender Agbo’s statement before the EFCC and a report on the statement as exhibits.
John Odubela (SAN) Agbo’s counsel, however, objected to it on the ground that they were not part of the proof of evidence.
He said: “Section 251(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2017, requires that documents to be used in proceedings must be frontloaded.
“My lord, this is a surprise to us, and we urge my lord to reject it.”
Justice Sherifat Solebo granted the defence counsel’s prayer and marked the documents as rejected.
While being cross-examined by Odubela, Mohammed told the court that he was not a member of the team that investigated Agbo and Yunusa.
A subpoenaed witness, Caleb Izedomini, presented to the court Certified True Copies of the bank account statements of the Rickey Tarfa and Co., a law firm of Ricky Tarfa (SAN), and bank account statement of Justice Mohammed Yunusa from January 2014 to February 2014.
Odubela, however objected to tendering the documents.
He said: “The best that the witness can do is to present the documents; he cannot tender for the purpose of marking the exhibits.” Justice Solebo held that the documents would remain in the custody of the court.
She adjourned the case until Feb. 21 for continuation of trial.
NAN reports that Yunusa is facing a four-count charge of attempted perversion of the course of justice and corruption by a public official, while Agbo is standing trial on a count of offering gratification to a public official.
According to the EFCC, Yunusa had constant and confidential communications with Tarfa, who was handling three lawsuits marked FHC/L/CS/714/2015, FHC/L/CS/715/2015 and FHC/L/CS/716/2015 before the judge.
It also alleged that Yunusa collected N1.5 million bribe from Tarfa for the purpose of giving favourable rulings and judgments in the cases.
The judge is also being accused of receiving N750, 000 from one Joseph Nwobike, between March 2015 and September 2015, to get “favourable” judgment in some cases.
Nwobike has been convicted of perverting the course of justice.
The EFCC alleged that Agbo paid the N1.5 million from Tarfa into Yunusa’s UBA account number 1005055617 on May 14, 2015.
The offences violate Sections 64(1)(a) and 97(3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.