New judge to hear Fayose’s case de novo
Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Kafarati, has re-assigned the trial of former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had called no fewer than 13 witnesses before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
EFCC arraigned Fayose before her on October 22, 2018.
It accused Fayose of receiving and keeping N1.2billion and $5million allegedly stolen from the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) contrary to the Money Laundering Act. Fayose pleaded not guilty.
EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu had on March 21 expressed lack of confidence in the judge and asked the Chief Judge to re-assign the case.
However, when the case came up on April 15 and the 11th prosecution witness testified, no reference was made to letter.
But in a May 23 letter, Justice Kafarati informed Justice Olatoregun that the case has been re-assigned to another judge of the Lagos Division.
He writes: “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.
“Justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done.
“I hereby transfer this case to Hon Justice C. J. Aneke for hearing.”
Fayose’s spokesman Lere Olayinka yesterday faulted the likelihood that the case would start de novo (afresh).
He said: “After calling 13 witnesses and failing to establish any case, EFCC will start the trial afresh.
“Will they manufacture fresh evidences and new witnesses? What a country. What a government.”
Among those who had testified was former minister of state for defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.
Justice Olatoregun and EFCC lawyer Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) had clashed on March 20.
It is believed that the hot exchange partly led to the latest development.
The judge had accused Jacobs of being “incompetent” and “extremely rude”.
The judge accused Jacobs of engaging in “Jankara” practice, but the Senior Advocate said he took “exception” to being described in such terms.
He said it was the first time he would be so described by any judge in all his years of legal practice.
The exchange occurred after the cross-examination of the 10th prosecution witness, Maroun Mechleb, who is the Chief Executive Officer of an Akure, Ondo State-based construction firm, Samchase Nigeria Limited.
The witness testified that he handled several contracts for Ekiti State, which he said were facilitated by Fayose’s aide, Abiodun Agbele.
Under cross examination by defence counsel Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN) (for Fayose) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) (for Fayose’s co-accused Spotless Ltd), Mechleb said: “In making the first statement (to EFCC), I did not say the truth. I was trying to help my friend. I can lie to help a friend.
“I later obeyed my conscience and went back to EFCC to say the truth.”
Olanipekun tendered parts of Mechleb’s statements at EFCC, but not all.
When Jacobs sought to tender the remaining part during his re-examination of the witness, Olanipekun and Ojo objected on the basis that Jacobs could not tender a statement at the re-examination stage.
Justice Olatoregun upheld the objections, but added that Jacobs could “have another bite at the cherry” by tendering it later. She did not mark the document as rejected.
But the judge took offence when Jacobs made reference to a submission by Ojo during his objection.
Justice Olatoregun 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.”
Jacobs said: “I was not referring to Your Lordship’s ruling.”
Justice Olatoregun said: “You are going beyond your bounds. Do not let me trash your practice. Listen to me, if you reevaluate 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 practice.”
Jacobs: “Thank you my Lord”.
Judge: “You stand here to reevaluate my ruling; you are incompetent to do that. If you have any re-examination, you do that. If you do not have, call your next witness, or you take a date.”
Jacobs: “I’m grateful to your Lordship. Thank you my Lord.”
Judge: “You do not stand there with impetus and reevaluate my ruling. I have ruled, relying on two sections of the Evidence Act.
“If you have an objection to that, 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 and re-evaluate the ruling of a judge. It cannot happen in my court!
“Re-examine your witness; if you are not re-examining, then close your case.”
Jacobs: “My Lord, I did not refer to Your Lordship’s ruling. 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.”
Jacobs: “I have offered respect to My Lord.”
Judge: “You have never offered it.”
Jacobs: “For My Lord to say that I am Jankara practice lawyer…”
Judge: “Yes, I am saying it. When you finish here, you can write a petition to the NJC (National Judicial Council). I’m saying it, and I’m not going withdraw it. I have said it. Go and do whatever you like
“I have called you into chambers and I told you what you’re doing which is not right. You do not just ridicule yourself here, and you have not stopped.”
Jacobs: “I’ve been in this job for a while. I have appeared before several judges, from the lower court to the Supreme Court. No judge has ever called me a Jankara practitioner.”
Judge: “I do not want to know. I do not want to know how many years…”
Jacobs: “I never engaged in Jankara practice, and I take exception to that word, Jankara practice.”
Judge: “Now, are you re-examining your witness?”
Jacobs: “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 witnesses to come here and lie against another person. I fear God. But for one to suppress truth, I will fight against it.”
The case was to come up before Justice Olatoregun on June 10 before the transfer.