Judge ordered to withdraw from Fayose's N6.9bn money laundering case 




By Akin Kuponiyi

A Lagos Federal High Court Judge, Mojisola Olatoregun presiding over the N6.9 billion money laundering case involving former governor Ayodele Fayose, has surrendered the case on the order of the Chief Judge of the Federal court, Justice Justice Adamu Abdu Kafarati.

Consequently, the case file has been transferred to another judge, Justice Chukwujekwu Joseph Aneke of the same Lagos Division of the court who will now start the case denovo (start afresh) after EFCC has called 13 out of 15 prosecution witnesses it intended to call.

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court transferred the case from the trial judge, citing a petition dated March 21, 2019 written by the EFCC which expressed lack of confidence in Justice Olatoregun and sought for transfer of the case to another judge.

The Chief Judge conveyed the transfer of the trial from Justice Olatoregun to Justice C. J. Anekei in a letter dated May 23, 2019.

The letter reads in part, “I refer to the petition of EFCC on this case and your Lordship’s comments thereto.

“It is apparent that the prosecution has lost confidence in the judge trying this case and justice must not only be done but must also be seen to have been done, I hereby transfer this case to Hon. Justice C. J. Aneke for hearing,” Justice Kafarati ordered.

The EFCC before now, had called 13 out of the 15 prosecution witnesses listed in the proof of evidence which started last year November and had enjoyed accelerated hearing.

The EFCC had, in a petition, dated March 21, 2019 and signed by the Acting Chairman of the Anti-graft agency, Ibrahim Magu, asked Justice Abdul Kafarati to transfer the case file to another judge.

Magu had noted that the EFCC was withdrawing its confidence in the trial judge after the altercation between her and the EFCC counsel Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) in open court on the 20th of March, 2019.

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Justice Olatoregun had blasted Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), when the judge raised concern over the failure of the prosecution to tender the complete three pages of the statement of one of the witnesses.

The judge noted that the prosecution was not doing a good job, saying, “Mr Jacobs, you dare not, you are not competent to look into my ruling, to evaluate my ruling, you are totally incompetent, whether you are a Senior Advocate or not.

“You can only go on appeal, Mr Jacobs. Your mode of advocacy, I do not understand it, it looks like what do they call it? Jankara market.

“You stand here to re-evaluate my ruling? You are incompetent to do that. You do not stand there with impetuous and re-evaluate my ruling. I have ruled, relying on two sections of the Evidence Act, if you have an objection, you go on appeal.”

Justice Olatoregun continued: “You have no competence, carrying your wig with arrogance and we have a lot of young lawyers here. What are you teaching them. You stand up to a judge, re-evaluating the ruling of a judge. It will not happen in my court! You re-examine your witness; if you are not re-examining, then close your case.”

A day after, EFCC petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking transfer of the trial of the case to another judge.

Despite the EFCC’s petition, Justice Olatoregun continued on May 12, 2019, with a prosecution witness causing a stir in the court when contrary to his extra-judicial statement to the EFCC, the witness told the court that he did not move cash from Afao Ekiti, Fayose’s hometown on the 16th of June 2014 and that the two vehicles he used to drive in the bank he used to work were grounded on that day.

The case was then adjourned till May 21, 2019 for continuation of trial. However on May 21, 2019, the trial was further adjourned until June 10, as Justice Olatoregun was said to be away on official assignment.

Fayose was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on October 22, 2018 alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd on 11 counts charge of laundering N6.9 billion.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the court granted him bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.

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