– as witnesses shun court
A High Court sitting in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital has refused an application asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to close its case against the former Governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
The application which was moved orally yesterday by a counsel to the former governor, Titilayo Akinlawon (SAN) was necessitated by failure of the EFCC witnesses to appear in court.
For the third sitting running, the three remaining witnesses of the agency who were said to be officials of Ogun State government have refused to appear in court despite reported pretrial meetings with them.
At the last adjourned date, Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje had threatened to force the anti-graft agency to close its case for failure to appear in court and not presenting its remaining witnesses.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, lead counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) told the court that he wasn’t aware that the case would come up at the last adjourned date because of the strike action by the state civil servants.
On the witnesses, Jacobs informed the court that they contacted the witnesses but that they claimed to be awaiting the directive of the state government before appearing in court.
He further explained that the state Head of Service, Elder Olusola Adeyemi who was contacted has also directed the team to meet the Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Taiwo Adeoluwa.
He said, “We contacted them to inquire on the reasons why they are not in court and to our surprise, they said they needed the approval of state government to come and give evidence in court.
“EFCC has also made efforts to contact the Head of Service and he has directed us to the Secretary to the state government. We are yet to get the approval as at last night, this is a clear departure from earlier arrangement.
“We have called 15 witnesses that are officials of Ogun State government with their full support and without any conditionality but we are surprised by the sudden turn of event.”
Akinlawon, while responding, said she had, at the last adjourned date, asked the court to instruct the prosecution to close its case in the eventuality of not appearing in court or failed to present any witness.
She said, “I now make the application that in as much as the prosecution is not ready to proceed on the hearing of this matter, I hereby apply that the case of the prosecution be closed.
“This is a matter that has commenced five years ago and the prosecution is still looking for witnesses, litigation is not an open ended game, there must always be an end and I submit that his is the end of the prosecution case.”
Jacobs further submitted that the application was made in bad fate and that the reasons were not put into consideration by the defence counsel.
In his ruling, Justice Mabekoje said he was constrained to further adjourned the matter till 16th and 20th of December, having considered the reasons presented by the prosecution counsel.
He however warned that he would not grant any other adjournment on the matter at the instance of the prosecution.