You’ll Be ‘Sent To Jail’ If You Don’t Appear, Judge Warns Obanikoro

Musiliu Obanikoro vs Judge

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, to appear in court at the next adjourned date or he would be arrested.

Senator Obanikoro who is testifying as the fifth prosecution witness in the trial of the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, was scheduled to continue his evidence under cross-examination on Thursday.

He, however, failed to appear in court.

The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who was not pleased with the development said she would not hesitate to order Obanikoro’s arrest should he fail to appear at the next adjourned date of March 18.

“If he fails to appear, he’ll be sent to jail and they’ll be bringing him from there with Black Maria,” the judge said.

She added, “He must present himself to the court at the next adjourned date or be compelled to do so.”

Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs had told the court that Senator Obanikoro was in the hospital.

He subsequently presented a medical report from a clinic said to be located in Ikoyi area of Lagos.

Justice Olatoregun, however, held that if the court were to take up the matter and verify the medical report, the hospital and the doctor who signed the document could lose their licence.

She said she would only permit an adjournment because of the counsel who was a very responsible member of the Bar and not because of the medical report.

“If I want to pursue it, the medical doctor may lose his license for issuing this report. But I will accept this because you (Jacobs) are a responsible member of the inner bar,” she said.

Despite the absence of the witness, the court listened to arguments on whether a statement made by Justin Erukaa, the late Special Assistant to the former governor, could be tendered and admitted as evidence, especially as he was not a party to the case.

A defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo, had argued that the statement was relevant to the case because Erukaa made the statement in the course of the investigation.

“In law, the first litmus test of admissibility is relevance. Obanikoro said in his testimony that he sent Erukaa on errands, including to collect over $1million and that he came to meet him in Ekiti,” he said.

Ojo noted further, “In law, a statement made to the EFCC in the course of an investigation is admissible in evidence without the maker being called as a witness or being a party to proceedings.

“It is not the law that a document which is not tendered through the maker is not admissible,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria added, relying on sections 39 and 83 of the Evidence Act.

But the EFCC counsel opposed the move to tender the statement, arguing that it was not admissible in law.

He said the sections relied on by Ojo were not applicable in the circumstances, stating, “he wants to smuggle the statement in.”

According to Jacobs, certain conditions must be met before a statement made by a dead person could be tendered, including that the person must have appeared in the proceedings.

At the next adjourned date of March 18, the court would rule on whether to admit the statement in evidence.

Fayose is on trial for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2billion and $5million said to have been stolen from the Office of the National Security Adviser, contrary to the Money Laundering Act.

He had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on 11 counts in October 2018.

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