The former Executive Secretary, Lagos State Scholarship Board, Stephen Oshinowo, has said he was tricked into writing a statement admitting stealing N127 million belonging to the Board while in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Oshinowo made this revelation at an Ikeja Special Offences Court on Thursday while testifying during the trial-within-trial to determine whether he voluntarily gave his statement to the EFCC.
He is facing trial over an eight-count charge of criminal conversion of N127 million belonging to the Board.
Led in evidence by defence counsel, Lawal Pedro (SAN), the defendant narrated how his statement admitting to the fraud was obtained during his detention at the anti-graft agency.
He said that when he was in EFCC custody, he was approached by a state counsel whom he identified as Rasak Adebayo.
Oshinowo alleged that Adebayo asked him to cooperate with the investigation and resolve the matter amicably rather than proceeding to court for trial.
He explained that an offer was made to him through the state counsel to give back N30 million and secure his freedom.
The defendant said the offer as well as the fact that his health was deteriorating while in EFCC custody made him change his earlier statement and write a statement admitting to the alleged offences.
He said: “On November 29, 2019, Adebayo approached me that he was contacted by my family to intervene in my matter.
“He advised me to play along with the EFCC in order for me to be set free.
“Adebayo told me that he has spoken with the EFCC and they have an understanding.
“He urged me to cooperate with every step.
“Thereafter, I was made to write another statement which I was guided on what to write down by the EFCC operatives.”
When asked by Pedro how he became aware that Adebayo was a state counsel, Oshinowo stated that he came to the realisation when he received an invitation from EFCC for an arraignment.
He said: “An EFCC officer called me on phone that their boss will like to see me, an invitation I honoured, and on getting to their office I was made to realise that I would be arraigned in court over the allegations.
“The development made me to reach out to Adebayo to know the reason behind the turn around of our agreement with EFCC.
“I told him to join me in court to resolve the whole issues he created for me.
“It was then Adebayo told me that he can’t represent me in court because he is a state counsel.
“I was shocked to hear his admission.
“Thereafter, I realised that I have been coerced to admit to an offence I knew nothing about.”
Under cross-examination by the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Usman Buhari, the defendant was asked if he had verified Adebayo’s identity from his family before he used him as his legal representative at the EFCC.
Oshinowo responded that he did not contact his family because he was in detention.
Buhari further queried: “Did you at anytime ask your family members about engagement of the services of Adebayo upon your released from EFCC custody?”
The defendant said: “No.”
The EFCC counsel also asked if he instituted charges or wrote a petition to the state against Adebayo for his alleged misconduct, the former Scholarship Board boss responded in the negative.
When he was confronted by the EFCC with documentary evidence that his daughter was a beneficiary of the Lagos State Scholarship Scheme, he stated that the process was not by influence but on merit.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo adjourned the case until April 28 for adoption of written addresses and ruling on the trial-within-trial.