Former Governor Ayodele Fayose’s alleged N2.2 billion fraud trial got stalled on Friday as the main witness meant to testify on the matter contracted COVID-19.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting the immediate past Ekiti State governor and a firm, Spotless Investment Limited for alleged criminal breach of trust, theft and money laundering.
The governor was first arraigned at a Federal High Court in Lagos before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who retired on October 22, 2018.
He was later re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2, 2019, after the anti-graft agency prayed for the withdrawal of the matter from Justice Olatoregun.
When the matter came up on Friday, EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs told the court:
“The last session, I assured the court that my witness will be coming into Nigeria from abroad. The witness is in Nigeria. He contracted covid 19.
“I have been monitoring the progress of his health. He is the main witness in this matter. I only became aware of his status yesterday, but he is unable to make it to court as I was informed that he is still very frail.
“The other witnesses whom I have contacted to come are unavailable. I have only one in court today. I intend to call four more witnesses.”
Jacobs went further to explain that the only witness in court was secured on Thursday, adding that he only filed her processes this morning.
Fayose’s lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) confirmed receipt of the additional proof of evidence filed on Friday morning for the prosecution’s witness who was available in court but prayed to be given time to enable him go through the documents and prepare for the witness.
“In the circumstance of the learned prosecutor, this document ought to have gotten to us some days before this trial, which would have facilitated our preparation to take this witness. Considering the fact that we have just been served this morning, we cannot take any witness for granted. We need to converse with the first defendant to properly prepare to take this witness. In the circumstances, we are not ready,” be said.
The second defendant (Spotless Investments Limited) lawyer, Olalekan Ojo (SAN), aligned with Olanipekun’s submission.
“There is no correlation between not being able to produce that main witness and this additional proof of evidence filed in respect of an entirely new witness.
“In the circumstances, the defendants cannot be reasonably expected to be served with additional proof of evidence around 8.56 am and be expected to start with any proceedings. Our inability to continue was foisted on the defence by the prosecution.
“On the last note, I concede that the statement of the witness is only a six-page document but it has to be read from the context of the entire case. We ought to hear from the defendants as they are masters of the facts. Thus, time is needed to interface with the defendants so they can provide necessary facts to guide us in the conduct of their defence,” he said.
The trial judge consequently adjourned the proceedings to January 28 and 29 for continuation of the trial.