The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ruled that the Head of Operations, Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, Mr Johnson Abidakun, can testify as a prosecution witness in the ongoing N2.2bn fraud trial of a former governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, and a firm, spotless Investmen Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission listed Abidakun as a replacement for a bullion van driver with Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, Adewale Aladegbola, who had earlier testified in the case.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Fayose had gone behind to compromise the bullion van driver, hence, its decision to drop him and use Abidakun as a replacement.
But Fayose and Spotless Investment Limited had, through his lawyers, Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN), filed an interlocutory summons in objection to the EFCC’s move to change witness.
The defence counsel contended that allowing a change of witness was an abuse of court processes by the prosecution.
But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), maintained that the EFCC was at liberty to replace Aladegbola with Abidakun since the case was starting afresh before Justice Aneke, after it was transferred from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun (retd.), before whom Aladegbola testified.
In a short ruling on Monday, Justice Aneke agreed with the prosecution and dismissed the objection by the defence.
The judge ruled, “This is a fresh trial, the parties are at liberty to call any witness that they desire in proof of their case. As a result, the defendants/applicants’ interlocutory summons is dismissed for lack of merit.”
The matter was subsequently adjourned till May 5 and 6 for continuation of trial.
In the charges, 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 Limited pleaded not guilty.