January 27, 2018.
A retired Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Mahmud Hassan, standing trial over illegal importation of 661 pieces of pump-action riffles, told the Federal High Court in Lagos during the week that operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) allegedly chained and threatened him with a gun in bid to force him to confess to a crime.
His lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, alleged that his client was forced to make a statement at gun point.
Hassan was arraigned along with four others before Justice Ayokunle Faji for allegedly importing arms and ammunition, including 661 pump action rifles, without license.
DSS Head of Investigation, Mr. Wale Odu, while testifying on Tuesday, claimed that Hassan confessed to conspiring with others to use his company, Hassan Trading Limited, to import the arms.
But, Galadima objected to the tendering of Hassan’s statement, saying it was not obtained voluntarily.
The judge ordered a trial within trial to determine the statement’s trustworthiness.
Testifying in the trial within trial on Wednesday, Odu said neither he nor his colleagues forced Hassan to make a statement.
“I was directed to investigate the case and I interacted with the second defendant (Hassan). The interaction was always friendly. We did it under a very conducive atmosphere, in an air-conditioned and well-furnished room.
“We served him good food. He ate thrice daily, very good and balanced diet. Every medical complaint he had, even headache, was taken care of by our doctors. There was no form of duress, coercion or pointing of gun at the defendant,” he said.
Odu said Hassan explained his and others’ roles in the importation “without any form of coercion.”
“After the interaction, the second defendant volunteered to reduce our interaction to writing. He was cautioned. The interaction was video recorded,” he added.
While cross-examining Odu, Galadima claimed that DSS threatened his client.
“I put it to you that the second defendant was always in chains,” the lawyer told Odu.
The witness replied: “No. Our interaction with the witness was always friendly. The issue of being in chain doesn’t arise. Under my supervision, the defendant was never chained.”
Galadima further alleged: “You threatened to kill the second defendant during the interview.”
Odu also denied the allegation, saying it would be “unprofessional” for him or his men to threaten a suspect with a gun.
“Our investigation is scientific. There’s a process. My interaction with him was without any threat,” he said.