By A.O. Ibe Uwaleke
A former Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose went into a serious closed door meeting with his lawyers on Friday immediately after a court session, as a witness, Oladele Clement Oladegbola, called by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), became manifestly ‘recalcitrant’ and appeared ‘hostile’ in the opinion of the prosecution, thereby forcing the court sitting before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun to reluctantly grant a short adjournment at the request of the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
Though this adjournment was vehemently opposed by the defence team on the ground that prosecution was adopting unnecessary delay tactics and seem not to be prepared for a diligent prosecution of Fayose, Justice Olatoregun nevertheless indulged Jacobs and granted his request to enable him return to chambers for another round of pretrial briefings.
The drama unfolded on Friday when the EFCC lawyer, Jacobs, called the witness, Aladegbola, the 13th in the list of prosecution witnesses, who introduced himself as a former driver of a Bullion Van in Zenith Bank, Ado-Ekiti branch as at 2015.
He told the court that his area of duty was cash picking and in absence of cash to pick, he worked in the marketing section.
When asked about the vehicles he used for his job, he said he used two vehicles namely: a Bullion Van and an Escort Van.
The prosecutor then asked the witness to tell the court what transpired on April 16, 2015 in relation to cash operation in the bank and in response, the witness said: “I don’t have any operation, more so, the Bullion Van which I was using was grounded in front of the bank on that date,”
When asked to tell the court what transpired between him and one ‘Alfa’ named Oputu Okiemute, he said that he got to know the said Alfa in August.
His words: “He told me about the cash they had picked and that we need to cover up as if we had gone to pick it up officially, and I asked him what do you want me to do now, as I said I was not aware” .
At this point, the prosecutor informed the court that the witness was departing from the contents of his extra judicial statement made to the EFCC.
According to Jacobs, “From the evidence this witness is giving, it appears he is trying to be hostile; he made statement to the EFCC and now he is trying to depart from the statement”.
Jacobs thereafter sought an adjournment to enable him contemplate on the nature of application to bring before the court on the development.
The defence counsel, Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN)
in cbjecting to the adjournment argued that where a witness departs from his extra judicial statement in court, it is not sufficient grounds for an adjournment, adding that same is manifestly untainable in law.
Citing the provisions of sections 230 of the Evidence Act, Ojo specifically opposed the application for adjournment on the grounds that the law requires the prosecution in such situation to cross examine the witness in order to impeach his character. The defence therefore urged the court to refuse an adjournment.
Although, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun queried why prosecution cannot instantly cross examine the witness, she however noted that since it was the case of the prosecution , she would grant the adjournment and consequently moved the case to May 14, 2019 for continuation of trial.
Earlier, a 12th prosecution witness, Mr Aliu Mukandaz, who is a Senior Manager with the Central Bank of Nigeria, had told the court that the sum of N2.2billion, was paid into the Diamond Bank account of Silva McNamara.
He said that the account was to fund any security agencies account like NIA, DIA and State House’ accounts.
On the role he played in the disbursements, he told the court that he had no role to play but only to disburse payments on the directives of the account signatories.
According to him the payment was authorised by the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki who is also signatory to the account.
Fayose was arraigned on an 11 count charge by the EFCC on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the court had granted him bail in the sum of N50million with one surety in like sum.
EFCC opened the case for the prosecution on Nov. 19, 2018 and is still leading evidence.
Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum 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 his 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 accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the defendant was alleged to have used the aggregate sums of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums 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 offences contravenes 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.
In the charge, Fayose and one Abiodun Agbele were said to have on June 17, 2014, 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.
Immediately after the court session on Friday, Fayose summoned his team pf lawyers to a nearby hotel at Ikoyi, Lagos to deliberate on the outcome of the court session and to restrategise on the forward. The meeting was made secret and major issues discussed were incubated.