By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS—A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, adjourned till June 28 the re-arraignment of former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, who is standing trial over alleged N3.3 billion fraud.
This followed the re-assignment of the case from Justice Cecilia Olatoregun to Justice Chukwujeku Aneke, due to a petition by the acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, who had called for the transfer of the case from Justice Olatoregun.
The anti-graft agency noted that the request was based on the grounds that it (EFCC) had “lost confidence” in her.
Meanwhile, one of the lawyers to Fayose, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, SAN, yesterday, faulted the Chief Judge of the court for to another judge, hinting that they are challenging decision at the Court of Appeal.
Prior the transfer of the case, Justice Olatoregun had earlier fixed June 10, 2019 for continuation of trial in the matter but on getting to the court, the defendants’ counsel were informed that CJ had reassigned the case to Justice Aneke.
Meanwhile, speaking of the transfer of the case after coming out of Justice Aneke’s court, Ojo expressed displeasure over the action of the CJ in the matter.
Ojo said: “This matter was adjourned till today (yesterday) for continuation of hearing but we were today told that it had been reassigned to Justice Aneke for fresh hearing.
“This development is very strange to us, having regards to the fact that the prosecution had called 12 out of their 13 witnesses, having regards to the fact the current legal regime governing criminal trial in Nigeria and the Federal High Court which is Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, states that any part heard matter where two or three witnesses have been called cannot be transferred to another judge.
Meanwhile, Justice Aneke has fixed June 28 for the re-arraignment of the accused.
“But in this case, 12 witnesses had been called, therefore, with all due respect, the CJ perhaps innocently acted in breach of the law, considering Section 98 (2). Besides, there is a decision of the Court of Appeal, a case of FRN against Lawal, in the matter the court ruled that CJ has no right to transfer part heard case like the present one. I am aware that the defendants are prepared to explore the remedy available to them in law to have the administrative decision of CJ set aside.
“It is inimical to fair trial; it is inimical to defendants to have their case expeditiously tried. It also brings about a possible case of jeopardy. We believed that this is a violation of the law and I think it is not because of Fayose is involved but it is important that we get this order declared nullity, in the interest of all of us, stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice.
“It is waste of public funds, time. We see it as bad precedent, we are worried, it could be anybody tomorrow. It was surprising that it was the prosecution that triggered it. Already, we have file motion before the Court of Appeal on it.”