From CHARLES ADEGBITE, Ado-Ekiti
Efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to convince the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti to confiscate the international passport of former governor, Ayodele Fayose failed yesterday. The prosecution counsel, Mr Adeniyi Adebisi from Rotimi Jacobs Chambers, raised the objection before Justice Adamu Hobon over Fayose’s consistent holding onto his international passport, despite court’s pronouncement that the passport be deposited in its custody.
The counsel submitted that part of the seven conditions reached to secure bail for Fayose on January 26, 2008 , having been detained immediately he made appearance for trial at EFCC office in Lagos was that, his international passport should be in the court’s custody pending the determination of the case.
Countering the position canvassed by the prosecution counsel on seizure of Fayose’s counsel, Mr Ajayi Owoseni, who held brief for the principal attorney to the former governor, Chief Kunle Kalejaye (SAN), said there was no reason for the prosecution counsel to bring up such argument since Fayose never absconded from prosecution .
Owoseni argued that the court had permitted the former governor to be in possession of the passport on health ground, saying this was to permit him to travel abroad for periodic medical check-up to attend to his health challenges.
He noted that EFCC had several times lauded the former governor for his cooperation with the anti-graft agency for expeditious trial of the case. The EFCC, also presented before the court, a newly amended 27-count charge against the former governor, who had been on trial for alleged money laundering since January , 2008. Fayose, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges when read to him by the court clerk .
In the new charges , EFCC submitted that the former governor had at various times in 2004 conspired with Biological Concept Nigeria Limited and Avian Specialists Nigeria Limited, consultants to the state government in the Ekiti State Integrated Poultry Project to convert the state funds for personal use. It submitted that the offence was punishable under section 14 subsection 1 of the money laundering Act 2004. Initially, EFCC preferred 51-count charge against Fayose at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
When the matter elicited argument, the judge interjected and urged the counsels to reach a consensus, which they could not and Justice Hobon had to resort to ruling to calm down frayed nerves. In his ruling , Justice Hobon averred that the status quo be maintained since no reported case of abuse had been reported against the former Governor by EFCC.
The judge said, “though the order that the accused person should deposit his passport with the court is in the records and this is valid. “But no evidence of default or fear had been reported against the accused person and no fear has been entertained so far. “
If there is an abuse of this privilege or there is fear by the prosecution concerning this privilege, the Court shall act accordingly”, Justice Hobon ruled . The Court adjourned till January 24, 2013 for proper hearing of the case.