By Innocent Anaba
Lagos—Four prosecution witnesses, yesterday, testified before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, at the resumed trial of immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, who is being prosecuted alongside a company Spotless Investment Ltd on an 11 counts charge of fraud, by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC.
Fayose pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Meanwhile, there was drama midway into the hearing between the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun and EFCC counsel, 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.
Noting that the prosecution, was not doing a good job, the judge said, “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.”
Jacob: “I was not referring to Your Lordship’s ruling.”
Judge: “You are going beyond your bounds. Do not let me trash your practice. Listen to me, if you re-evaluate my rulings in this court, you”ll get into trouble.
“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 impetus 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. 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! Your re-examine your witness; if you are not re-examining, then close your case.”
Jacob: “My Lord, I never said a word about Your Lordship’s ruling.”
Judge: “I do not take tangential comments here. You are fond of doing that. You are an extremely rude, senior advocate. If you are a senior advocate, you are not older than me at the Bar and you are not older than me in age. In Yoruba land, we respect age. And in this job, we have what they call professional ethics and respect for each other.”
Jacob: “I have respect for you My Lord.”
Judge: “You have never offered it.”
Jacob: “For My Lord to say that I am Jankara practice lawyer…”
Judge: “Yes, I am saying it, if we finish here, you can write a petition to the NJC.”
Jacob: “No court has ever told me I engage in Jankara practice.”
Judge: “I have said it: go and do whatever you like.”
Jacob: “My Lord, I’ve been on this job for a while.”
Judge: “I do not want to know.”
Jacob: “No judge has ever called me a Jankara lawyer.”
Judge: “How many years have you spent?”
Jacob: “I take exception to that word, Jankara. No judge can tell me that I am involved in Jankara practice.”
Judge: “Now, are you re-examining your witness?”
Jacob: “Yes, I am. But I take exception to that word, Jankara practice. I take full exception to it. I do my job according to my conscience; I will never pervert the course of justice; I will never call any witness to come here and lie against another person. I fear God .”
Earlier, three other witnesses, all Lebanese – Goshen Joseph; Joseph Mechleb and Maroun Mechleb, who are working in Nigeria as building and construction engineers, also gave their evidence.
Mechleb, who is the Chief Executive Officer of a construction firm, Samchase Nigeria Limited, which is based in Akure, the Ondo State capital, while being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Jacobs, told the court that he had done various jobs for both the Federal Government and some states, including Ekiti State.
He said he did jobs for Ekiti State in 2006, 2014, 2015 and 2016 when Fayose was governor of the state.
Mechleb told the court that the jobs he did for Ekiti State were facilitated by Abiodun Agbele, an aide to Fayose.
He said there was an agreement that he would “appreciate” Agbele for every contract he facilitated for Samchase Nigeria Limited.
Mechleb said though the “appreciation” was not specified, it was usually about 10 per cent of the contract sum.
The Lebanese, who told the court that he could neither write nor read English language fluently, said the scope of the contracts was usually communicated verbally, saying, “We agreed that when he got jobs for me, I will appreciate him. We did not specify but it’s around 10 per cent.”
Mechleb told the court that he once lied to the EFCC about owning a property on Agbele’s instructions.
He said he falsely claimed ownership of the property in order to help Agbele, whom he described as a friend.
The Lebanese had been asked by Jacobs if he knew of a company, JJ Technical Services Limited, to which he replied that the firm belongs to his younger brother and brother-in-law, Maroun Mechleb and Joseph Mechleb, respectively.
He said his brother once approached him to help get some jobs for JJ Technical Services Limited, because since the company was incorporated in 2007, it has never got a job.
Mechleb said he collected the firm’s documents and gave to Agbele to find job for it, but Agbele did not.
The Lebanese said at a time, Agbele approached him and asked if he had a company which could be used to get a contract.
He said he then nominated JJ Technical Services Limited.
The Lebanese said Agbele later bought a property in the name of JJ Technical Services Limited and brought the deed of assignment for him to sign.