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 re-arraignment 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 apologise 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.