A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, fixed February 17, to rule on whether or not a senior bank official can testify in the ‘N2.2bn fraud’ trial against former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and a firm, Spotless Investment Ltd.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is seeking to field the Head of Operations, Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, Mr Johnson Abidakun, as a fresh witness while the case was being heard by another judge.
The commission told the court that Abidakun will replace a Zenith Bank bullion van driver, Adewale Aladegbola, who had earlier testified in the case.
EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), alleged that the bullion van driver’s testimony was different from the statement he wrote at the EFCC’s office during the investigation of the case.
Jacobs claimed that Fayose had compromised the witness by threatening him, which was why
the EFCC sought to replace Aladegbola with Abidakun.
The prosecutor said the EFCC was at liberty to substitute the witness since the case was starting afresh before Justice C.J. Aneke, after it was transferred from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun (retd.), before whom Aladegbola testified.
But the two defence counsel Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN) opposed the prosecution’s move, describing it as an abuse of court processes.
Moving an interlocutory application on Thursday in opposition, Ojo described the prosecution’s move as “unfair, oppressive and unconscionable.”
He said, “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.”
But Mr Adebisi Adeniyi, who appeared in place of the lead prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, described the application by the defence as a ploy to waste the time of court.
He urged Justice Aneke to dismiss the application and award substantial cost against the defence.
Adeniyi said since the case was starting afresh before Justice Aneke, everything that happened before Justice Olatoregun, including the testimony of the bullion van driver, had become useless.
After hearing both sides, Justice Aneke adjourned till February 17 to rule on whether or not Abidakun can testify.
In the charge, the EFCC alleged, among other things, that 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 you reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”
The ex-governor was also alleged to have on the same day “received a cash payment of $5,000,000 from Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the 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 pleaded not guilty.