Lagos – A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday held that a prosecution witness in the trial of a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, was hostile.
In a ruling, at the resumed trial of Fani Kayode over money laundering, Justice Rita Ajumogobia said that the fifth prosecution witness, Mr Ojo Agbor, was antagonistic.
Agbor works with the National Gallery of Arts, Abuja.
The judge granted the prayers of the Prosecution Counsel, Mr Festus Keyamo, that the court should declare the witness hostile.
Keyamo made the application midway into the proceedings.
Fani-Kayode is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 40-count charge.
Keyamo had called on Agbor for evidence-in-chief during which the witness told the court that he worked as Personal Assistant to Fani-Kayode, when he was the Minister of Culture and Tourism.
Agbor said that the schedule of his duty ranged from receiving visitors, purchase of tickets, booking of hotel accommodation and other miscellaneous duties assigned to him.
The witness told the court that he was given sums of money ranging from N600,000 to N3 million on different occasions to lodge into a bank account of the accused with the then First Inland Bank Plc.
He told the court that all the money he lodged into the account of the accused were given to him by one Mr Kola, who was the Property Manager of the accused.
At this point, Keyamo sought the leave of the court to declare the witness an opponent.
He said: “My lord I pray the court to grant the prosecution leave to put the witness under cross- examination.’’
He said that there were discrepancies in the evidence given by the witness in court and those he made before the EFCC.
“The statement he made to the commission is totally different from what he is saying in court.
“Also, I am just seeing the witness for the first time this morning in court in spite of repeated summons to meet with me.
“He also refused to have a pre-trial with me,” he submitted.
However, Defence Counsel, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), objected to the application, saying that the prosecution counsel could not cross-examine a witness he led in evidence.
He cited the provisions of Sections 214 and 231 of the Evidence Act.
When given his statement to the EFCC to read, Agbor, however, said that the sums of money he lodged into Fani-Kayode’s bank account were given to him personally by the accused.
Under cross-examination by defence counsel, the witness told the court that he was forced to make the statement.
The court adjourned the case to June 24 for continuation of trial.
Fani-Kayode was first arraigned in December, 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47-count charge.
He had pleaded not guilty and granted bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties in like sum.
Fani-Kayode was re-arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, following the transfer of Mohammed from the Lagos.
The accused was again re-arraigned before Ajumogobia on Feb. 11, 2013, after the transfer of Murtala-Nyako.
He was still re-arraigned before Ajumogobia on March 6, following the amendment of the 47-count charge to 40-counts by the EFCC.
In the charge, the accused was alleged to have carried out transactions with funds exceeding N500,000 without going through a financial institution.
The accused was also alleged to have accepted cash payments to the tune of about N100 million, while he was the Minister of Aviation and Minister of Culture and Tourism.
The offence is said to contravened the provisions of Sections 15(1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and 15 (2) (a) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004. (NAN)