FORMER Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose on Monday was denied the request restraining the testimony of a witness in an alleged N2.2 billion money laundering charges against him.
At the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, Fayose had filed an application to stop Johnson Abidakun, a witness presented by the prosecution team spearheaded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Abidakun was billed to testify in place of a bullion van driver, Adewale Aladegbola, who testified when the case was before another judge. After the anti-graft agency claimed on January 16 that Fayose secretly compromised the bullion van driver, hence, its decision to drop him and use Abidakun as a replacement.
Fayose was first arraigned along with his company, Spotless Investment Limited, on October 22, 2018, on an 11-count charge bordering on fraud and money laundering to the tune of N2.2 billion.
He is facing trial in connection with N1.299 billion and $5.3 million out of the N4.65 billion slush funds allegedly shared by the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, through a former minister of state for defence, Musiliu Obanikoro.
Fayose and Spotless Investment had, through his lawyers, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN), filed an interlocutory summons in objection to the EFCC’s move to change witness.
The defence counsels contended that allowing a change of witness was an abuse of court processes by the prosecution.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, countered 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 (retired), before whom Aladegbola testified.
The presiding judge, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, however, maintained that Fayose’s application was without merit.
“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,” Justice Aneke declared.
Justice Aneke upheld the prosecution’s application, stating the EFCC could field Abidakun, as its witness against the former governor before adjourning till May 5 and 6 for the continuation of trial.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.