…Says “We are handicapped on way forward”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) surprised the
court today, as its counsel, Mr. S. A. Obafemi, said they were yet to
receive briefings as to the ways to go since the trial of immediate
past governor of Ekiti State,  Mr. Ayodele Fayose, was transferred
from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, to Justice Chukwujekwu Joseph Aneke
of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The EFCC counsel, who opposed the rearraignment of Fayose by reading
the charges preferred against him, said; “Since the matter was
transferred, we are yet to hear from the EFCC on the way forward. We
apologize to the court. That is the predicament we found ourselves.

” At this point, we ourselves, we are handicapped as to way forward in
this matter. We urge the court to give us another date for the
defendants to be arraign properly.”

While giving further reasons the matter should be adjourned, the EFCC
counsel said “information we gathered
is to the effect that the 1st defendant is still being investigated
for further matters. The leading counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) has not
been directed on the ways to go, that’s why he is not in court today.”

Justice Aneke however responded; “So I will just be here, waiting for
EFCC to give directive when the matter is already before me? I don’t
take directive from EFCC.”

In his response,  Counsel to Fayose, Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN), said “We
are taken aback that the prosecution is now saying it is not ready and
in the interest of justice, these defendants cannot be on trial
perpetually.

Olanipekun said the EFCC, which he described as nominal complainant in
the matter, started investigating this case before the expiration of
Fayose’s tenure as governor.

“Their activities were so disturbing of the official functions of the
defendant that he had to write the EFCC that he will make himself
available the very day he leaves office, and he so did,” he pointed
out.

He added that the EFCC had not given any cogent reason why the trial
should not go on.

Counsel to the second defendant, Olalekan Ojo (SAN) wondered why
defendants who have been charged to court will have their arraignment
postponed because other cases are being investigated.

“This is absurd. These alleged new cases were being investigated
before they was arraigned before Hon. Justice Olatoregun. If it was
competent for the defendants to be arraigned then, what stops it now?

The judge however adjourned the matter till July 2, 2019, citing the
interest of justice, considering the non presence of EFCC lead
counsel, Rotimi Jacobs.

Earlier, the defense counsel had withdrawn the application objecting
the  transfer of the case to the new court by the Chief Judge of
Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, owing to a petition
against the trial judge, Justice Olatoregun by the EFCC.

Withdrawing the application, Olapenikun said; “we have no preference
whatsoever for any particular judge before whom this case should be
tried.

“Our concern is purely for the rule of law and this should not be
cited as authority that the Chief Judge can transfer any criminal
matter that is already being tried.”

In his own submission; Olalekan Ojo, said “the administrative decision
of the Chief Judge, with all due respect, is an example per excellence
of a rape on the rule of law.

“It is a very sad precedent in the administration of criminal justice
in Nigeria.

“The Chief Judge is acquainted with the law and what he has done is
illegality and unconstitutionality. The defendants have been foisted
with a situation of total helplessness.

“Even if this application is decided in our favour, it will not be of
any meaningful benefit to the defendants. The EFCC has gotten from the
back door, what it couldn’t have gotten thru the due process of law.”

He therefore supported the withdrawal of the application and urged
that the trial should commence before Justice Aneke.

Fayose was arraigned by the EFCC on October 22, 2018, alongside a
company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on an 11-count charge.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the
sum of N50 million, with one surety in like sum.

EFCC had opened the case for prosecution on November 19, 2018 and had
called 13 out of the 15 witnesses it listed before the case was
transferred to a new judge for the trial to begin afresh.

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