By Peter Ayoade
For the second time in two weeks, trial of the former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, over allegations of fraud to the tune of N2.2 billion, was stalled at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos today, after counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) told the court that he could not reach the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in charge of the case and that documents needed were not available.
It should be recalled that on October 6, 2020, counsel to the EFCC had told the court that he was “having difficulties bringing his witnesses to the court because of happenings in the EFCC.”
Mr Jacobs asked the court to grant an adjournment. His request was granted by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, who fixed today and tomorrow for the continuation of the trial.
However, after calling his 8th Witness, Jacobs informed the court that he could not go ahead in view of the absence of documents he needed to have received from the IPO. He claimed that he had a witness from Ekiti State but cannot proceed, adding that he needed a longer adjournment.
However, Counsel to Fayose, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) opposed the application for a long adjournment, saying “When these dates were taken, it was made to be a long adjournment for all parties to get prepared. I came from Abuja yes and if I could come here, why can’t their documents be brought here too?”
Also, Counsel to the second defendant (Spotless Nigeria Limited), Olalekan Ojo (SAN) said it was unheard of that the Federal Government of Nigeria that is the complainant in this matter will come to court to say that it cannot bring over documents from Abuja to Lagos.
“Is the Federal Government telling this court that it can not get documents from Abuja to Ekiti? I also took risk to get here from Ila-Orangun, Osun State yesterday. Under the Rules, the prosecution is entitled to five adjournments. Once exhausted, we will make the necessary application.
The Judge said the Prosecution should reach out to the IPO, adding that “The excuse of him being on leave is not tenable. Since there is one witness available from Ekiti State, at least, let us take him.
“The court is ready, the defence are ready, all of us are ready and the IPO is saying he is on leave? I don’t accept that.”
Today’s hearing had started with the prosecution calling the 8th witness, Ogundein Taiwo Olumide, a Relationship Manager with First Bank Plc.
He gave evidence in respect of the account of a company known as Still Earth Limited and tendered documents in respect of the company’s account, with the documents marked as Exhibit F4.
In the statement of account, the entry made on November 12, 2014, the customer Still Earth Limited received various deposits into the account totalling N34,800,000.00 in four tranches.
“I can see the highlighted transactions on 29 and 30 January 2015. On 29 January 2015, the customer received inflow of N40 million from Hoff Concept Limited on 30 January 2015, the same customer, Still Earth Limited received another inflow of N39.500 million from De Privateer Limited. On the same 30 January 2015, the customer issued instruction to move the sum of N70.75 million to Capital Field Investment and Trust Limited. On the same day, there was another instruction to move the sum of N105.75 million to the same beneficiary – Capital Field Investment Limited. On the same day, there was a deposit of N132.5 million from Samchase Nigeria Limited.
“On 30 January, the first withdrawal was N35 million to Capital Hill Investment Limited. On February 11, 2015, the same customer, Still Earth Limited received an inflow of N200 million while on February 13, 2015, Still Earth Limited received N47 million from De Privateers Limited.
“Apart from these, I did not do any other thing in this matter,” the witness told the court.
However, under cross examination by Olanipekun (SAN), the witness said none of the transactions he mentioned involved Fayose and Spotless Nigeria Limited.
Full Text of Cross Examination by Olanipekun (SAN)
QN: In this transactions you have narrated, is there any transaction involving the 1st defendant (Ayo Fayose)?
ANS: The transactions were carried out by Still Earth Limited and the beneficiaries are named, which I believe are the ones with whom the customer had business.
QN: Have you read through Exhibit F4?
QN: Is the name of the 1st defendant (Fayose) written anywhere on Exhibit F4?
ANS: I cannot see it
QN: What of the name of the 2nd defendant (Spotless Nig Ltd). Is it there?
ANS: I cannot see it.
Text of Cross Examination by Olalekan Ojo (SAN)
QN You have been in the banking job for over 10 years?
ANS That is correct.
QN: Can you confirm from your wealth of experience that banking transactions be it deposits or payments must be backed up by documents?
ANS That is true
QN: The payment could be funds transfer or cash payment?
QN: Your bank did not consider any of the transactions suspicious?
ANS: The bank carried out instructions from the customers.
QN: Your bank carried out the instructions. Did it consider any of them to be illegal?
ANS: I cannot speak for the entire bank but it is very likely that the bank will not carry out any illegal transaction.
QN: Your bank carries out KYC (Know Your Customers) in its transactions with customers?
ANS: That is correct.
QN: Your bank keeps adequate information of its customers?
ANS: They do
QN: Confirm on your honour, integrity and experience that it is only registered customers of your bank (account holders) that can make withdrawals from accounts in your bank.
ANS: Definitely so.