The trial of former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, over alleged N2.2 billion fraud was stalled on Friday, after a major witness scheduled to testify for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not show up.
Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to EFCC, explained to the judge at the Federal High Court in Lagos, that the witness contracted COVID-19 and that he became aware of the development on Thursday.
“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,” the EFCC counsel said.
He added that the only available witness to him was secured on Thursday, and he was not able to file her processes this morning.
The EFCC counsel maintained that he did not know it would take so long for the main witness to recover from COVID-19.
Counsel to Fayose, Ola Olanipekun, a senior advocate, confirmed the receipt of the additional proof of evidence filed on Friday morning for the witness who was available in court, but requested time to go through the documents and prepare for the witness.
He said: “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.”
Counsel to the second defendant (Spotless Investments Limited), Olalekan Ojo (SAN), aligned with the 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 stated.
The trial Judge, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, adjourned the proceedings to January 28 and 29 for the continuation of the trial.