Fayose’s Re-arraignment Stalled, EFCC Says He is Still Being Investigated
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that former Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti, facing N6.9 billion fraud before the court, was being investigated for other matters.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Fayose was billed for re-arraignment before Justice Aneke on Friday, but EFCC counsel, Mr S.A. Obafemi, prayed the court to adjourn the case, saying that the commission was still investigating the defendant for other matters.
According to the counsel, there are no clear directive from the commission on the steps to take.“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.
According to Obafemi, the main prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was absent in court as a result of the situation.He urged the court to adjourn the case.
Responding, defence counsel, Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) opposed, the request for adjournment.
According to defence, there must be an end to litigation as the charge cannot lie before the court in perpetuity.
It said that the commission began investigation of the defendant even before the expiration of his tenure as governor.
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.a
He urged the court to order that the charge should be read over to Fayose.
In a ruling, the judge frowned at the request for adjournment on the grounds that the case was transferred to the court and was slated for re-arraignment.
The judge, however, said that since it was not the main prosecutor (Jacobs) who appeared in the case, he would grant an adjournment in the interest of justice.
He adjourned the case until July 2 for re-arraignment of Fayose.
NAN reports that the EFCC charged Fayose alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd., on 11 counts bordering on N6.9 million fraud and money laundering.
The former governor was first arraigned on Oct. 22. 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun,
He pleaded not guilty, and was granted bail on Oct. 24, 2018, in the sum of N50 million with two sureties in like sum.
The prosecution opened trial on Nov. 19, 2018, and had so far called 13 of the 15 witnesses it listed.
However, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-kafarati transferred the case from Olatoregun to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, following a petition by the EFCC.
Earlier on Friday, defence informed the court that it filed an application for transfer of the case back to Olatoregun, but had just been informed that she would be due for retirement in November.
Defence counsel, Olanipekun, prayed the court for a 30-minute stand down to enable the defence team to discuss with the defendant on his opinion on the situation.
The court granted the stand down, and after some minutes, the defence team returned and informed the judge that it had withdrawn the application for transfer of the case, adding that Fayose was prepared for re-arraignment.
It was at this point that the EFCC counsel – Obafemi – sought an adjournment of the re-arraignment.
NAN reports that the EFCC is alleging that on June 17, 2014, Fayose and one Agbele took possession of N1.2 billion for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign.
The commission said that the duo reasonably ought to know that the sum formed part of crime proceeds.
The commission also accused Fayose of receiving 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.
It noted that the sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.
It also said that Fayose retained N300 million in his bank account and took control of N622 million, which sums, he ought to know, formed part of crime proceeds.
It equally alleged that Fayose procured De Privateer Ltd. and Still Earth Ltd. to retain in their bank accounts, the aggregate sum of N851 million which formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the EFCC said that Fayose used N1.6 billion to acquire property in Lagos and Abuja, adding that the sum was part of crime proceeds.
It added that the former governor used N200 million, which was part of crime proceeds, to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji.
The alleged offences contravene the Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011.