A last ditch effort by former Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose to have his trial for fraud postponed till after the June 21 gubernatorial election in the state met a brick wall on Thursday.
Fayose, who is the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had prayed the Federal High Court, Ado-Ekiti, to defer his trial so that he could focus on prosecuting his governorship ambition but the request was rejected.
He is standing trial for allegedly misappropriating state funds to the tune of N416 million during his first stint in office between 2003 and 2006 before he was impeached.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which is prosecuting him said it was in his best interest to stand trial before the poll to enable Ekiti citizens make up their minds on him.
Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, spokesperson for the EFCC said in a statement that counsel to the former governor, Mr. Raji Ahmed (SAN) prayed the court to adjourn the matter till the first week of July to allow his client concentrate on his electoral campaign.
He said: “Ahmed argued that the accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“The request was, however, turned down by Justice Adamu Hobon after a strong objection by the counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who said an accelerated hearing of the matter would help Fayose”.
The statement quoted Mr. Jacobs as saying “It would be in the interest of the accused person [to stand trial], so that his people can make up their mind about him and his name cleared before the election”.
Justice Hobon, thereafter, adjourned the matter till May 6, 2014 for continuation of trial but not before the court admitted eight documents as exhibits by the prosecution.
The documents admitted were Certificate of Identification of Biological Concept Nigeria Limited; Account Statement of Biological Concept Nigeria Limited; Account Opening document of Biological Concept Limited; Account Statement of Avians Specialties Nigeria Limited and Account Opening document of Avians Specialties- all with Skye Bank Plc.
Others were Certificate of Account of People’s Democratic Party, Ekiti State at Keystone Bank, the Account Opening form of the party and Statement of Account.
Five of the documents involving Skye Bank were presented before the court by a prosecution witness, Mr. Emmanuel Olajide Alejo, who was led in evidence by Jacobs.
The EFCC counsel urged the court to admit the documents as exhibits.
He explained that the witness could not produce the original of the documents owing to short notice.
The witness had earlier told the court that he was instructed to prepare the documents for witnessing two days before his scheduled appearance in court.
His words: “For me to produce the original of the documents, the management of the bank will have to sit, deliberate and agree before the documents can be released and this will not meet the time the court is supposed to sit”.
However, his claim was punctured by Ahmed, who stated that his excuse was not tenable in law.
According to him, even with the short notice, the management of the bank should have released the original of the documents.
In his ruling, Justice Hobon said: “Looking through the Evidence Act 83(2), 84, 89(f) (h) all read together, no doubt, these documents passed admissibility test and such can be admitted as evidence”.
He subsequently admitted the documents as exhibits N1-N5.
Three documents presented by another prosecution witness – Taiwo Sanusi – Head of Compliance, Monitoring and Reporting at Keystone Bank, was also admitted by the court as evidence.
The three documents were generated from an account of the PDP, Ekiti State.
Jacobs prayed the court to admit them as exhibits and with no objection by Ahmed, Justice Hobon admitted them as exhibits P1, P2 and P3 respectively.
It would be recalled that Fayose was re-arraigned on November 22, 2012 by the EFCC on a 27-count amended charge bordering on misappropriation of state funds to the tune of N416million.