The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking the transfer of the trial of the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, from Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos to another judge.
The EFCC before now, has called 10 out of the 14 witnesses listed in the trial, which started last year November and had enjoyed accelerated hearing.
In a petition dated March 21, 2019 and addressed to the Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice A. Abdul-Kafarati, the EFCC ‘s letter, which was signed by its acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, alleged bias against the trial judge.
When contacted, Fayose’s Counsel, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) express shock, describing the EFCC petition as “backdoor arrangement which is legally misconceived having regard to the provisions of Section 98(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of F.R.N V. LAWAN (2018) LPELR-43973 (C-A), which barred the Chief Judge from transferring case in which the prosecution had already called witnesses.”
He said seeking transfer of the case at this point amounted to shopping for a backdoor arrangement to nail his client, stressing that “justice should be for both prosecution and the defendant.”
In the petition, Magu said Justice Olatoregun “is from the same state with Ayodele Fayose, and in fact, a Princess of Ijero Kingdom, Ekiti State”
He claimed that the judge had an axe to grind with the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), pointing out that when the case came up on March 20, 2019, for continuation of trial, the judge engaged in “unrestrained, unprovoked, and unwarranted vituperations” against him.
“As a matter of fact”, Magu’s letter continued, “your Lordship forwarded a petition written to you by Advocates for Anti-corruption and Sustainability of Good Governance in Nigeria to our prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, for his comments and he replied expressing confidence in her (Justice Olatoregun).
According to Magu, the EFCC is now withdrawing it’s confidence in the trial judge after the altercation between her and the EFCC counsel in open court on 20th March, 2019.
Magu then concluded that it has become “obvious that Honourable Justice Olatoregun cannot dispassionately and transparently try this case, and we are restrained to state that we have lost confidence in her ability to do so.
“We therefore request Your Lordship to transfer (the case) to another judge of your court for trial.”
On the petition EFCC claimed to have been written by a Civil Society Organization, Fayose’s counsel advised the commission to stop hiding under faceless organisations. Rather it should diligently prosecute its case in the open court.