N2.2bn trial: Fayose returns, battles EFCC over substitution of witness

 

Former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State may have returned to public space after long period of latent holidays. The former Ekiti Governor returned to the public space challenging the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the substitution of witness for his trial on allegation of N2.2 billion fraud, which include a firm, Spotless Investment Limited. The EFCC appears to be searching for witnesses that will make testimonies before the court to reflect their charges in order to indict Fayose. Thus, the commission sought to substitute an initial witness who in his statement did not indict the former Ekiti Governor on the allegations against him, making it difficult for EFCC to prove its case.

EFCC is seeking to replacement an earlier witness, Adewale Aladegbola,  a bullion van driver with Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, with Johnson Abidakun, Head of Operations, Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, to testify in the trial of former Governor Fayose which was transferred to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun (rtd.). Aladegbola had already testified in the suit when presided by Justice Olatoregun.

EFCC prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, was of the view that the commission is at liberty to replace Aladegbola with Abidakun as the case is fresh before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, having been transferred from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun (rtd.). EFCC was dissatisfied that the testimony of  the bullion van driver in court was different from the statement he wrote at the EFCC office during investigation.

Jacobs had alleged that Fayose had gone behind to compromise the witness by threatening him. He argued that EFCC sought to replace Aladegbola with Abidakun because of the inconsistency of the first witness.

The defence counsel, Ola Olanipekun SAN, and Olalekan Ojo SAN, argued to the contrary that the prosecution’s intention is an abuse of court processes.

In an interlocutory application on Thursday, Ojo had described the prosecution’s substitution as “unfair, oppressive and unconscionable.”

Ojo argued: “A prosecuting agency, anywhere in the world, should not be playing hide and seek.

“One witness has come to testify and because you are not pleased with what he said, you want to replace him. It is an abuse of court processes.”

Adebisi Adeniyi, who stood in for the lead prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, argued that the application by the defence counsel is to waste the time of court. He appealed to Justice Aneke to dismiss the application and award substantial cost against the defence.

Adeniyi argued that since the case is starting afresh before Justice Aneke, everything that happened before Justice Olatoregun, including the testimony of the bullion van driver, had become useless.

Justice Aneke, thereafter, adjourned the case to February 17 when the court will deliver judgment whether EFCC can substitute witness Johnson Abidakun, the Head of Operations, Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, with the bullion van driver to testify in the trial.

Meanwhile, EFCC in the suit alleged: You, Fayose, on June 17, 2014, “took possession of the sum of N1, 219, 000,000 to fund your 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Ekiti State, which he reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”

EFCC also accused former Governor Fayose to have on the same day “received a cash payment of $5,000,000 from Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, then Minister of State for Defence, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to sections 1 and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.”

Fayose and Spotless Investment Limited already  pleaded not guilty.

 

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