A Federal High Court in Lagos was recently forced to adjourn the fresh arraignment of former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, over fraud and money laundering allegations due to a request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for more time to conclude its investigation.
It would be recalled that the trial judge, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke had fixed Friday for the arraignment of Fayose and his company, Spotless Limited but when the case was called a lawyer, who represented the EFCC, Sunday Obafemi, asked for an adjournment.
Obafemi based his request on the ground that the anti-graft agency is still conducting investigation on other matters against the former governor and his company.
The case file was move from the court of Justice Mojisola Olatoregun’s court by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati to Justice Aneke, the reason for the fresh arraignment.
Justice Abdul-Kafarati decided to retrieve the case file from Justice Olatoregun due to a petition written to that effect by the EFCC.
In the petition dated May 21, and signed by the acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, the anti-graft agency said it had “lost confidence” in the judge.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that on March 20, 2019, there was an open altercation in court between Justice Olatoregun and the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
But in his reaction to the development, Fayose, through his lawyer, Olalekan Ojo (SAN) said that Justice Abdul-Kafarati acted in error to have transferred case to another judge for trial.
Ojo also insisted that the decision of the CJ to transfer the case to another trial judge was a breach of law.
The anti-graft agency had on October 22, 2018, arraigned the former governor over allegation of fraud to the tune of N2.2bn.
Fayose was arraigned together with his company on an 11-counts charge of criminal breach of trust, theft and money laundering.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Friday, Obafemi urged the court to adjourn the case because the commission was still investigating the defendant for other matters.
The lawyer said there was no clear directive from the commission on the next steps to take in the case.
He stated, “The matter is coming up for the first time before this court, and the information we gathered from our client, EFCC, is that the first defendant (Fayose ) is still being investigated for other matters.
“The arraignment will not be possible this morning as we are yet to hear from the complainant on further steps to be taken, ” he said.
Obafemi also told the court that the main prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN ), was absent in court as a result of the development.
He, therefore, urged the court to adjourn the case.
But the defence counsel, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN ) opposed the request for adjournment.
Olanipekun insisted that there must be an end to litigation as the charge cannot lie before the court in perpetuity.
He said that the commission started investigating the defendant even before the expiration of his tenure as governor.
On his part, Ojo said, “The prosecutor has cited no law to back up this strange proposition of having this arraignment postponed just because the prosecution is investigating the defendant for other cases.“The court has a mandatory duty to prevent persecution of any criminal defendant, as this is the only way the integrity of the criminal justice system can be guaranteed,” he said.