The Chief Judge (CJ) of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati has transferred the trial of the former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, charged with alleged N6.9 billion fraud, to a new judge.
Abdu-Kafarati, transferred the case from the former judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke.
The action followed a petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking a transfer of the case.
Fayose was arraigned on Oct. 22, 2018, by the EFCC, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on 11 counts bordering on fraud and money laundering offence.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail on Oct. 24, 2018, in the sum of N50 million with sureties in like sum, while the prosecution opened trial on Nov. 19, and had so far called 13 witnesses out of 15 listed.
On March 20, a drama ensued in court midway into trial, between the trial judge, and EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN.
The judge raised concerns on the manner of prosecution by counsel, and had noted that the prosecutor was not doing a good job, adding that he was not competent to evaluate the court’s ruling.
On his part, the prosecutor expressed his displeasure on the grounds that he had always dispensed his duties diligently, and had never been derogated by any court.
Meanwhile, at the last proceedings on May 10, the 13th prosecution witness, Mr. Adewale Aladegbola, a former driver of a bullion van, had given evidences which the prosecutor described as being contrary to his extra judicial statement to the commission.
On this premise, the prosecutor informed the court that his witness appeared “hostile” and urged the court to adjourn the case to enable him make necessary application on the situation.
Continuation of trial was billed to resume on June 10.
However, the CJ conveyed the transfer of the case from Justice Olatoregun to Justice Aneke, by a letter dated May 23, a copy of which was obtained by newsmen.
The CJ said: “I refer to the petition of EFCC on this case and your Lordship’s comments thereto.
“It is apparent that the prosecution has lost confidence in the judge trying this case and justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done, I hereby transfer this case to Hon. Justice C. J. Aneke for hearing.”
A new date for the case before Aneke has however not been confirmed.
The matter will consequently begin de novo before the new judge, as the defendant will take his plea again.
During trial before Olatoregun, the prosecution had called witnesses, from Zenith Bank, Diamond Bank, as well as a former Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro.
According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from the then Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.
He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in a bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain in their bank accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the accused was alleged to have used about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
The accused was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.
The offence contravened the provisions of sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.