The Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed February 17 to rule on whether or not 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 Investment Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had brought Abidakun in to replace a bullion van driver with Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch, Adewale Aladegbola, who had earlier testified in the case.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, alleged that the testimony given by the bullion van driver was different from the statement he wrote at the EFCC’s office during the investigation of the case.
Jacobs alleged that Fayose had gone behind to compromise the witness by threatening him.
He explained that this was the reason the EFCC sought to replace Aladegbola with Abidakun.
The prosecutor said the EFCC was at liberty to replace Aladegbola with Abidakun since the case was starting afresh before Justice C.J. Aneke after it was transferred from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun (retd.), before whom Aladegbola testified.
However, the defence counsel, Messrs Ola Olanipekun, SAN, and 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.”
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 the 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 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.